A FESTIVAL in Scotland’s most prolific whisky-producing region will aim to show how the multimillion-pound industry has been built on the principles that are due to be recognised over the coming year.

The Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design is a Scottish Government initiative celebrating Scotland’s contribution to everything from technology to textiles, architecture and more, and it will be piggy-backed by the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival.

James Campbell, the festival chairman, said the union of innovative design and traditional whisky production was a fitting achievement to be marked during the themed year.

He said: “From the bold, innovative moves of illicit distillers who pioneered production to the world-famous architectural design of the pagoda which has become a hallmark of Speyside’s distilleries, whisky would not be the multi-billion pound industry it is today without these innovators.

“This amalgamation of heritage and innovation is what makes Speyside whisky so unique, and we look forward to sharing our traditions and passion for Scotch malt whisky with visitors to the festival. The five-day event offers a rare opportunity for whisky aficionados and beginners alike to learn more about the malts that have made our region world famous.”

Visitors will flock to Speyside between April 28 and May 2 for the 17th year of festivities surrounding the “water of life”.

The five-day celebration will toast Speyside’s internationally acclaimed malt whisky through exclusive tastings, tours and appreciations.

More than 400 events make up the programme, including a range of entertainment involving cookery, comedy, crafts and indulgent meals, as well as heritage walks and excursions.

Scotland’s first themed year, the Year of Homecoming, was in 2009 and its success brought a range of benefits to the country and boosted tourism overall.

Following on from this, the Scottish Government announced a series of themed years to showcase Scotland as a dynamic and creative nation.

“The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival is a terrific success story and has attracted many thousands of overseas visitors to Scotland,” said Paul Bush, events director of VisitScotland, the national tourism agency.

“Although an industry that has a long-established heritage, whisky production in Scotland embraces creativity and innovation to supply global demand.

“This fits perfectly with the theme of Innovation Architecture and Design, and visitors can look forward to finding out about this interesting side of our national drink during the festival in 2016.”

More than half of all Scotland’s malt whisky distilleries are on Speyside – more than 50 in total – and most will be staging events during the festival, including many that are not usually open to the public.

Contrasting tradition with the present day, the programme will for the first time feature the oldest operating distillery in the Highlands, Strathisla, which was established in 1789, along with the newest, Dalmunach, which First Minister Nicola Sturgeon officially opened in June. For details, visit www.spiritofspeyside.com