Hol­i­day spirit

Renowned the world over for its whisky, Spey­side, Mo­ray and the Cairn­gorms of­fer vis­i­tors a plethora of choices when it comes to ex­pe­ri­enc­ing Scot­land’s na­tional drink, Rosie Mor­ton dis­cov­ers

Scottish Field - - AUTUMN BREAKS -

With the Mo­ray Firth’s crys­tal-clear wa­ter bor­dered by miles of white sand, and the Cairn­gorms’ rolling heath­ery hills and ragged moun­tains you could just about be for­given for think­ing you were in some far-flung, trop­i­cal par­adise.

Yet, it is the River Spey’s ice-cold wa­ter that has drawn scores of dis­til­leries to Mo­ray, Spey­side and the Cairn­gorms, es­tab­lish­ing what is now ar­guably the best place for whisky en­thu­si­asts, old and new, to en­joy Scot­land’s favourite tip­ple.

Nes­tled away in the north of Scot­land, the Spey­side whisky re­gion is home to more than 50 dis­til­leries, in­clud­ing two of the best-sell­ing sin­gle malt whiskies in the world, The Glen­livet and Glen­fid­dich.

En­cap­su­lat­ing the his­tory of Scotch whisky, Mo­ray, Spey­side and its sur­round­ing ar­eas of­fer an ar­ray of whisky-fu­elled ex­pe­ri­ences, al­low­ing vis­i­tors to un­cover the rare and colour­ful tales that lie be­hind each and every dram.

Spey­side’s dis­til­leries pro­duce unique ‘ex­pres­sions’ of Scot­land’s am­ber nec­tar. Whether you en­joy a rich, rounded whisky, or a fruity, flo­ral or smoky note, each dis­tillery pro­duces a dis­tinct flavour. As such, the ‘Malt Whisky Trail’ is a great way of tast­ing your way around the re­gion. ( maltwhisky­trail.com)

Guid­ing vis­i­tors through nine dis­til­leries, the trail show­cases some of Scot­land’s finest malt whiskies in­clud­ing Ben­ro­mach, Dal­las Dhu, Strathisla, and the renowned Glen­livet and Glen­fid­dich. As well as be­ing a whisky con­nois­seur’s dream es­cape, the trail leads you through some of the coun­try’s most spec­tac­u­lar land­scapes, tak­ing you from the wind­ing north­ern beaches of the Mo­ray Firth to the craggy moun­tains of the south. Many of us, though, seek a more ac­tive au­tumn break. The Dra­mathon, Spey­side’s Sin­gle Malt Marathon, takes place on 20 Oc­to­ber 2018. ( www.the­dra­mathon.com)

Whether you want to run a full marathon, a half marathon, a 10km or a re­lay, run­ners will be able to take in the beau­ti­ful scenery of Mo­ray Spey­side while they com­pete. En-route to

the fin­ish line, com­peti­tors pass sev­eral dis­til­leries and re­ceive a minia­ture of sin­gle malt from each dis­tillery they pass. If run­ning marathons seems like an up­hill strug­gle, why not try ca­noe­ing? What could be bet­ter than im­mers­ing your­self in the land­scape while pad­dling down the waters of the River Spey through the red-tinged forests, then stop­ping for a whisky tast­ing ses­sion? With the ‘Spirit of the Spey’ ca­noe jour­ney, whisky en­thu­si­asts can drink in 50 miles of scenery while pad­dling along the river, paus­ing to visit dis­til­leries like The Macallan, Aber­lour and Dal­whin­nie. ( www.spir­itofthes­pey.co.uk)

The Macallan Dis­tillery, which is thought by many to pro­duce the ‘Rolls-Royce of sin­gle malts’, was founded in 1824 by Alexan­der Reid, a bar­ley farmer and school teacher. Among the first dis­tillers in Scot­land to be legally li­censed, the dis­tillery is set in an idyl­lic 150-hectare es­tate. In June this year, they opened a new dis­tillery and vis­i­tor ex­pe­ri­ence cen­tre where guests can en­joy the ‘Six Pil­lars Tour’. Led by ex­perts, the tour leads vis­i­tors through each stage of whisky pro­duc­tion and ends with a nos­ing and tast­ing ses­sion. ( www.themacalla­n.com)

Gail Cleaver, gen­eral man­ager at The Macallan, said: ‘There is a max­i­mum of 12 peo­ple on each tour and we only take out tours every 45 min­utes. This means that when you’re out on tour with us you should pretty much feel like you’re the only guests on tour. It isn’t about herd­ing peo­ple around, there isn’t a tour bus wait­ing to go, this is purely for you. It is ex­clu­sive and tai­lored to you. With Macallan, you’re a VIP.’

While The Macallan Dis­tillery presents the de­fin­i­tive op­por­tu­nity to in­dulge in the whisky ex­pe­ri­ence, Gail Cleaver added: ‘I think our new project at The Macallan is also go­ing to help put Spey­side on the map. There is so much more in the Spey­side area that peo­ple need to get out and en­joy. We’ve got the best fish­ing, the best walk­ing, hills, cy­cle trails, lots of

won­der­ful places to eat… By open­ing what we have here, we’re just open­ing peo­ple’s eyes to Spey­side.’

For those seek­ing a more re­laxed au­tumn break, a visit to Scot­land’s ‘Whisky Cap­i­tal’ is likely to hold great ap­peal. At the heart of the Spey­side whisky trail lies Dufftown, the big­gest Scot­tish ex­porter of whisky.

The town is sur­rounded by nine dis­til­leries – Mort­lach, Glen­fid­dich, Dufftown, Glen­dul­lan, Bal­ve­nie, Kin­in­vie, Pit­ty­vaich, Park­more and Con­va­l­more.

From 27 Septem­ber to 1 Oc­to­ber 2018, Dufftown will also host the Au­tumn Spey­side Whisky Fes­ti­val which in­cludes nos­ing and tast­ing, as well as or­gan­ised trips to nearby dis­til­leries. ( www.whisky. dufftown.co.uk)

If you were hop­ing for a more se­cluded whisky tour of Spey­side, the ‘Spey­side Whisky Ex­pe­ri­ence, ex­pert es­corted tours’ may be the one for you. Derek Han­cock, tour guide and driver, has over 40 years of ex­pe­ri­ence in the whisky in­dus­try and will take you on a per­son­alised tour of the re­gion.

It is ex­clu­sive and tai­lored to you. With Macallan, you are a VIP

Pick­ing you up from your ho­tel, Derek treats you to a day trip of the best dis­til­leries in the area, as well as tak­ing you to the likes of John­stons of El­gin, a world-renowned woollen mill that pro­duces the finest cash­mere cloth­ing and ac­ces­sories. ( www. speyside­whisky­ex­pe­ri­ence.com)

So, whether you like your dram neat, shaken, stirred or on the rocks, Mo­ray, Spey­side and the Cairn­gorms of­fer up the per­fect whisky re­treats. En­joy a chauf­feured tour of The Whisky Re­gion, run your way around its dis­til­leries, or ca­noe down the River Spey – no mat­ter which route you choose, the trip is sure to be drip­ping with sin­gle malt de­lights.

Im­age: The Cave Privée in the Macallan Dis­tillery.

Clock­wide from topleft: Guests stop for a dram dur­ing a Spirit of the Spey tour; the River Spey in Aber­lour; the Dra­mathon; run­ners are re­warded; sun­set over Lossiemout­h light­house, Mo­ray; pad­dling their way from one dram to the next.

Above: Gail Cleaver, The Macallan dis­tillery. Left: In­side the Spey­side whisky ex­pe­ri­ence.

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