Amid this time of uncertainty, it is often difficult to find a source of inspiration and hope. Yet, Speyside’s whisky tourism industry continues to create a sense of community in its region and beyond.
Not many spirits have this power to unite people on such a level, telling tales that span decades, cultures, and continents, whilst recruiting dedicated custodians in the process. This ability to unite and overcome will help us bounce back from Covid-19 stronger than ever.
Moray welcomed 800,000 visitors last year – and with an estimated 2,800 people working in the tourism industry, this makes it worth £130 million to the region’s economy.
These figures and the successful implementation of the Moray Tourism Business Improvement District earlier this year – where all local businesses contribute to a universal fund that will support the region’s tourism – communicates Speyside’s success, but also its communal approach to tourism. Moray’s success depends on people working together to achieve a common goal.
This ‘communal approach’ extends to the distilleries of Speyside located in the north east, home to the highest number of distilleries in Scotland (more than 60) and a region that has established itself as the global epicentre of distilling as a result of its single malt prowess and community of whisky masters. So many distilleries in close proximity creates a sense of community – Speyside’s whiskies may be competitors on the shelf, but we work together to achieve the common goal of affirming Moray Speyside as a global leader in the production of this fine spirit, as well as a world-class place to visit.
This ethos forms the pulse of the Malt Whisky Trail – a trail of nine sites including Glen Moray, Glen Grant, Benromach, Glenlivet, Cardhu and Strathisla distilleries, as well as the Speyside Cooperage – where visitors can witness the exceptional craft of cask-making and maintenance in action. The Trail can also take its visitors back in time by visiting the historic Dallas Dhu site – one of Scotland’s ‘lost’ distilleries. Visitors get to experience the very best of Scotland in beautiful Moray Speyside.
Although these experiences are currently closed, the whisky world’s production, resilience, and ability to persevere continues and it is this persistence that will ensure we bounce back from these challenging times. Despite much of the world being on pause, essential distillery workers are still producing whisky and tastings are taking place online. The world’s first virtual whisky festival that took place last weekend is another example of the strength of our whisky community, which Glen Moray was proud to support.
Whilst you can’t visit the Malt Whisky Trail just now, its stories can be experienced online through its blog, podcasts and website; be these insights from master blenders, brand ambassadors, Speyside’s locals, or even skilled bartenders in the region. The whisky world continues to flourish despite current circumstances, and the whisky community is very much active.
Ultimately, this presence and universal love of whisky is what we’re known for and why tourists will return to Speyside once current circumstances improve. According to the Scotch Whisky Association, 42 bottles of single malt are exported to 175 markets around the world every second.
This totals more than 1.3 billion bottles every year, capturing why whisky will not disappear but will continue to resonate universally; for many people, sharing a dram with a loved one provides a great pleasure in life.
When we return to being open to the public, the Malt Whisky Trail sites’ stories, coupled with a warming dram, the heat from our copper stills and the atmosphere of our traditional dunnage warehouses, will again allow visitors to be immersed in the authentic whisky experience. Being warmly welcomed by the community is what makes the Trail so attractive. By channelling community as well as craft, you experience the bigger picture – something that millions of overseas visitors come back for time and time again.
No doubt there are challenging times ahead but we must come together in a way that the whisky world always has and continues to do. Together we will return stronger, having weathered the storm with whisky as our hero offering, and the rural beauty of Speyside on our doorstep. The Malt Whisky Trail will be waiting for you with its arms wide open.
Iain Allan is a board member of the Malt Whisky Trail. He is also visitor centre manager and brand ambassador at Glen Moray Distillery.