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From deluxe dining in castles to discovering the desert islands drams of some of whisky’s finest ‘castaways’, a whole range of new attractions have been unveiled today (Thursday, 28 January 2016) as part of the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival 2016.

With hundreds of different events listed on www.spiritofspeyside.com there are many different ways for the thousands of visitors who will descend on the region from April 28 to May 2 to enjoy Scotland’s national drink.

The listings have been published on the website, but tickets will not go live until Tuesday, February 2 so that visitors have plenty of time to look at the programme and decide what events they simply cannot miss.

Ticket sales have broken records on the first day of sale for the past three years in a row, with some of the most popular events selling out within a matter of hours.

Festival manager Pery Zakeri says, “Distilleries and communities have pulled out all the stops to ensure that this year’s programme is one of the best yet, with some innovative new events at venues that have not previously participated.

“We know that visitors from around the world will be sitting by their computers on Tuesday just waiting for sales to open to make sure they get tickets for the events that they really want.”

The Festival is taking part in Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design, and there will be plenty of opportunities to marry the amber nectar with stunning castles.

The 15th Century Gordon Castle, on the banks of the River Spey at Fochabers, is taking part in the Festival for the first time and will make a stunning setting for a four course dinner with specially selected whisky and wine.

Drummuir Castle, the home of Diageo in Speyside, is offering an exclusive two night stay with full access to its renowned malt library. The castle, built in 1847 is a splendid example of the Scottish Victorian architecture. Its romantic roof line with its battlements, turrets and chimney stacks is dominated by a stunning 60 foot high central lantern tower, notable for its Gothic tracery.

Find out which drams a panel of Scotch whisky experts would choose if they were marooned on a desert island in a special experience at Strathisla Distillery. The whisky lovers will describe their dream drams, sharing the characteristics and special qualities of each whisky with guests, who will sample both the drams and dishes that the experts would like served alongside.

These dishes will be created with input from food and drink writer Martine Nouet and executed by Speyside chef Eric Obry. Being ‘marooned’ on a desert island doesn’t get much better than this!

For the first time in festival history, a maltings will join the programme to provide visitors with a window into this sector of the industry, in response to visitor feedback showing a real interest for all elements of production.

Speyside’s newest distillery, Dalmunach, will also open to the public for the first time with exclusive whisky festival tours.

Gordon and MacPhail is stepping out on its ‘The wood makes the whisky’ campaign with a guided walk and commentary through Elgin’s Quarrelwoods, which will include a sample of malts to savour at its retail shop.

With new partners, new events and even more whisky venues opening their doors, expectations are running high. Pery adds, “We’re pleased to be joined by new partners and to find such a willingness to get involved in the festival and offer visitors a wide variety of different experiences.

“Boortmalt has joined us for the first time and will be offering four tours of their maltings in Buckie, providing an insight into drying, storing, steeping, germination and kilning.

“As this is new to the festival we expect there to be keen interest, as feedback from visitors has shown a lot of interest in whisky’s ‘side’ industries.

“We are also seeing more communities come on board, for example Forres Heritage Trust delivering tours in the whisky museum in the Tolbooth in Forres which will have hundreds of pieces on show for the duration of the festival.”

Festival goers are urged to book early as demand for tickets is expected to be strong and all the places for at least one event – the annual whisky school – have already been snapped up.

There’s a great blend of attractions being served up for the 17th annual festival including some free events and a range of arts and crafts, walks and tours, tastings and nosings.

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