Spirit Moves Organizers to Host First Scotch Whisky Festival

Reed Travel Features

EDINBURGH -- With 130 distilleries operating in this little corner of the world, it is hard to believe that 1997 will be the first year Scotland hosts an International Scotch Whisky Festival.

Alan Kotz, the chief executive officer of the official destination management company for the event, Aspect International, also wondered why Scotland never had a whiskey festival and decided to organize one.

His reasoning was that there are plenty of beer and wine festivals, so why not one for whiskey?

The festival is being sponsored by the Scottish Tourist Board, Lothian and Edinburgh Enterprise, Edinburgh & Lothian Tourist Board, the British Tourist Authority and a number of whiskey distilleries.

More than 4,000 visitors are expected to attend the festival, which will be held Oct. 27 through Nov. 2.

The northeastern region of Speyside, located about 100 miles west of Edinburgh and home to the Malt Whisky Trail, and Edinburgh will be the venues for the festival.

Packages are available through Aspect International's U.S. sister company, Aspects of Britain, based in Pittsburgh.

John Latimer, president of Aspects of Britain, said that the festival has started to generate interest in the U.S., and bookings are looking good.

This type of event appeals to small groups such as whiskey clubs as well as to older professionals and seniors, he said.

Aspects of Britain, which specializes in customizing itineraries for individuals and small groups, will put together an entire program for clients interested in combining the festival with other sights, such as a visit to Glasgow or London, Latimer said.

Aspects of Britain pays travel agents 10% commission.

Two-night festival programs start at about $295 in Edinburgh and about $330 in Speyside.

The cost includes accommodations in a three-star hotel and most meals.

Air-inclusive programs are available.

For details or to book, contact John Latimer, Aspects of Britain at (800) 866-7526, Ext. 611.

The event will encompass the history, the color and the taste of Scotch whiskey.

In addition to distillery tours, storytelling and ceilidhs (dances), scheduled events celebrating the "water of life" (the Gaelic name for whiskey) taking place in Speyside include:

* A blending presentation by the makers of J&B Scotch.

* Tastings of rare whiskies at Gordon & Macphail, Elgin.

* Dinner at Cardhu Distillery and a tasting of the Johnnie Walker portfolio.

* A blending exercise with the Chivas and Glenlivet group at Strathisla distillery.

* Tastings and dinner at Glenlivet and Glenfiddich.

In Edinburgh, daytime festivities will include exhibitions, food fairs and cooking with whiskey demonstrations.

The celebration goes on late into the evening with concerts and ceilidhs.

Other events in Edinburgh will include:

* Blending demonstrations by one of Scotland's master blenders.

* Tutored tastings and whiskey master classes.

* A Scottish specialty food fair.

* Traditional Scottish music concerts.

* A Gaelic heritage and whiskey-tasting presentation.

* A trace-your-clan-heritage presentation.

* A Halloween party on Oct. 31.

* A film festival featuring Scottish and whiskey themes.

* Lectures on whiskey and its history.

* An exhibition of whiskey memorabilia.

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