ORGANISERS of The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival are celebrating after delivering a record-breaking festival.

The 19th festival has been the best yet in terms of international numbers, with strong ticket sales and the most extensive festival programme ever – featuring 575 events in total – delivered as part of this year’s offering.

Debut attraction, an Off The Beaten Track Tour to four distilleries never normally open to the public, won the coveted best new event award. Ann Miller of Chivas Brothers accepted the award from Sean Murphy, food and drink writer at The Scotsman. The attraction saw whisky lovers take tours delivered by Chivas Brothers’ international brand ambassador Tristan Campbell at Dalmunach, Tormore, Braeval and Allt a Bhainne distilleries. The tours were followed by a Mediterranean and Middle Eastern-inspired lunch prepared by cookery writer Ghillie Basan, accompanied by whisky tastings at her remote Speyside home.

This was announced at the closing ceilidh held at the Craigellachie Hotel on Sunday when the winners of the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Awards were also revealed.

The annual awards – the only whisky competition in the world that places the power to determine the winning drams in the hands of the public – saw the 25-year-old Cragganmmore Special Release announced as the public’s favourite whisky overall. There was double cause for celebration for Glen Moray, with its Classic Chardonnay winning the non-age statement and its 18-year-old winner in the 13to 20 year old section.

Top title in the 12 year old and under winner went to Strathisla 12-year-old. Meanwhile, in the over 21-Year-Old category, Glenfiddich 21-year-old Reserva Rum Cask Finish triumphed, with the 25-year-old Cragganmore Special Release runner up, but it gained the most individual votes overall making it the public’s favourite.

James Campbell, chairman of Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival said: “What a truly magnificent five days we have had here in Speyside.

“We’ve been joined by people from more countries than ever, as well as local people, who have been able to enjoy our biggest ever programme of events, and amid glorious sunshine too. One of the key events of the festival is the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Awards and we congratulate all our winners. From a fantastic range of new events, the Off The Beaten Track tour encompassed landscape, whisky and food, three qualities for which Speyside is famed the world over, making it a worthy winner of best new event.

“We’re delighted to have been able to offer so many different experiences to so many people.”

The festival’s spin-off will be Spirit of Speyside: Distilled in Elgin Town Hall on August 31 and September 1. The event brings together the region’s whisky, gin, beer and food producers under one roof, to enjoy samples of local products, meet key faces from the food and drink industry and take part in masterclasses on a range of topics.