The Spirit of Speyside whisky festival is the biggest one of its kind. It’s understandable, as over half of Scotland’s whisky distilleries, and some of the most world-renowned, reside in the Speyside region, giving the event a lot of great whisky to present and introduce to the whisky world.

This year the event ran from the 27th of April and concluded on the 1st of May. The number of attendees exceeded expectations, an issue discovered early on at the free Craigellachie 31 tasting down on the beach under Telford’s bridge above the river. The single malt ran out before all guests could have a taste and, as it was awarded the World’s Best Single Malt Whisky at the World Whisky Awards earlier this year, the guests’ disappointment was understandable.

However, with countless other amazing drams to taste, tours of some distilleries that are rarely open to the public, and other fun food and whisky events and tastings, this year’s festival turned out to be a huge success once again.

On Twitter the hashtag #dram17 blew up with tweets and photos by festival guests, and this year the festival featured around 500 different events.

Another amazing development in this year’s festival, was the inclusion of the Japanese Chichibu Distillery. As the name suggests, the Spirit of Speyside is a festival which focuses heavily on Scotch whiskies from the Speyside region, and rarely includes whiskies from other countries across the globe. The inclusion of this great Japanese distillery in the festival programme goes to show how Chichibu is making waves internationally.

The Highlander Inn

At the Highlander Inn and Whisky Bar, located at the heart of the small Craigellachie village, the “Everything About Chichibu” event was held as part of the festival schedule.

In 2015, Tatsuya Minagawa, who was previously the European brand ambassador for Japanese whisky producer Suntory and whisky manager of The Highlander Inn, became the owner of the inn..

The establishment now features one of the biggest collections of Japanese whiskies outside Japan, as Minagawa himself is Japanese and holds some very strong connections in the Japanese whisky industry.

The inn often has some very limited bottles by Chichibu on offer (all their bottles are limited to be precise), so it made sense that the Chichibu event was held there during the festival.

Everything About Chichibu

The event this year was held by Chichibu’s brand ambassador, Yumi Yoshikawa, who also worked at the Highlander Inn for several years in the past, before moving back to Japan where he worked with Ichiro Akuto at Chichibu.

The event ran for from 1.30 pm to 3.00 pm on Friday the 28th, with tickets selling weeks before the festival.

Yumi discussed the ethos of the Chichibu distillery, and introduced Chichibu whiskies, mentioning how they differ greatly from most Japanese whiskies, as the flavours are usually much bolder and intense, closer in similarity to Scotch whiskies.

Several new releases were offered for sampling during the seminar, some of which won’t be available in Europe for quite some time.

Production, maturation in Mizunara wood, and young whiskies were discussed, and guests left the inn with a little more knowledge on what makes Chichibu whiskies some of the best in the world.

 

The Spirit of Speyside 2017 was a huge success, and this year saw the festival reach new heights in attendees and the number of events held. Let’s hope that Japanese whisky gets put under the spotlight more and more in the coming years. We’re sure you’ll agree with us when we say we’d like to see a festival dedicated to the Spirit of Japan!

The next festival is a while away, so in the meantime – this.

George Koutsakis

Despite having a long time love for quality spirits, George truly explored his passion for whisky when he became the assistant manager for the BrewDog Japan franchise, owned by Whisk-e, Japan’s biggest Scotch whisky importer, in Tokyo. During his time in Tokyo he sampled countless high-end Scotch and Japanese whiskies, held numerous beer and whisky tasting events, and built relationships with many sellers, producers, and owners of some of the best whisky and cocktail bars in Tokyo. After his time in Japan, George continued to study whisky and beer production extensively, receiving his Cicerone certificate and becoming an integral part of the team at Dekanta, acting as Creative Director. He now spends his time travelling, sampling great whiskies, and writing all about them.