Interview mit James Campbell, Chairman des Spirit Of Speyside Festival

geführt von Robin D. Strippel

Das Spi­rit Of Spey­si­de Fes­ti­val fin­det die­ses Jahr vom 01. bis 06. Mai statt und gilt mit dem Feis Ile als das wich­tigs­te Whis­ky-Event in Schott­land. Denn es kürt immer­hin in Zusam­men­ar­beit mit allen Bren­ne­rei­en der größ­ten und wich­tigs­ten Whis­ky-Regi­on Schott­lands ihren bes­ten Whis­ky in 4 Kate­go­rien, sowie mit einem Gesamtsieger.

Die Aus­wahl der 8 Whis­kys für die fina­le Abstim­mung durch Whis­ky-Fans aus aller Welt fällt eine Exper­ten­ju­ry aus bekann­ten Bran­chen­grö­ßen, vom No Age State­ment bis zu einem 30 jäh­ri­gen Macal­lan wie vor 2 Jah­ren ist ein Groß­teil des Spek­trums somit vertreten.

Zum inzwi­schen 4. Mal fan­den sich am 22.03. vie­le die­ser Whis­ky-Freun­de im Sco­tia Spi­rit in Köln ein, um am inter­na­tio­na­len Voting des Spi­rit of Spey­si­de Fes­ti­vals teil­zu­neh­men und ihre Mei­nung in die Waag­scha­le zu wer­fen. 2016 begann dies alles durch eine spon­ta­ne Idee von Peter Klaas, Inha­ber von Sco­tia Spi­rit und in enger Zusam­men­ar­beit mit James Camp­bell, Chair­man des Festivals.

Nach dem Erfolg in Köln wei­te­te das inter­na­tio­na­le Voting sich auf inzwi­schen 7 Loca­ti­ons außer­halb des Ver­ei­nig­ten König­reichs aus und jede trägt im glei­chen Maße zur Ver­ga­be des end­gül­ti­gen Titels des bes­ten Spey­si­de Whis­kys bei.

Dass die­ses Jahr das 20th Anni­ver­sa­ry des Fes­ti­vals statt­fin­det erklär­ten die eben­so erneut mit­ge­reis­te Lin­da Mel­lis, Mit­glied im Board of Direc­tors und Brand Home Mana­ger bei Dia­geo, zusam­men mit Mr. Camp­bell den zahl­reich anwe­sen­den Gäs­ten bei Sand­wi­ches im Tea Room noch in Ruhe vor den Tastings.

Kurz bevor es dann an die Votings ging, konn­te der Autor ein kur­zes Inter­view mit James Camp­bell über Bran­chen- und Spey­si­de-Fra­gen führen:

Q: Let‘s begin with the ele­phant in the room, how big will the impact of the Brext be on the Whis­ky Indus­try? Will we just see minor pri­ce increa­ses or is the­re more to come, tou­rism, etc.?

James Camp­bell: We don‘t know how it will go yet but the distil­le­ries will have some plans rea­dy for months if not more. The World Trade Orga­niza­ti­on still isn‘t real­ly awa­re of the big pro­blem the who­le whis­ky indus­try is facing in the­se uncer­tain times. We trade with 180 to 200 mar­kets around the world and of cour­se want to see at least a Brexit-deal done, if the EU would give us 1 or 2 more years we would pro­ba­b­ly stay in in my opinion.

Q: Are the­re any inte­res­t­ing chan­ges or new events con­cer­ning the Spey­si­de Fes­ti­val this year?

James Camp­bell: As a mat­ter of fact we just today announ­ced a new gin fes­ti­val, as you pro­ba­b­ly know the gin sec­tor is a more and more important part of the Spey­si­de port­fo­lio and it‘s not only whis­ky distil­le­ries making gin but sepe­ra­te, inde­pen­dant com­pa­nies. The event will be hos­ted from 12th to 14th July at a scot­tish cast­le, the Gor­den Cast­le Wal­led Gar­den, the­re will be gin tastings of cour­se, cock­tails and much more. In addi­ti­on to that, during the Spey­si­de Fes­ti­val the­re will be a gin event in every town on fri­day and sunday.
In gene­ral: We had around 500 events the last time during the who­le fes­ti­val, this time we have over 600 with one more day added to the fes­ti­val calendar.

Q: What are your long­term plans & goals con­cer­ning the fes­ti­val, even more inter­na­tio­nal tastings, more loca­ti­ons in Scot­land for events?

James Camp­bell: Well this time it‘s our 20th anni­ver­sa­ry, 20 years ago on the first events we had a lot of towns with emp­ty hotels and now ever­y­bo­dy is just so busy during the Fes­ti­val, it‘s gre­at. We will have more than a thousand votes abroad this time, we want to expand this even more with some new count­ries joi­ning in and we want to build upon this solid base we deve­lo­ped the last 20 years.

Q: Which distil­lery tours in the Spey­si­de would you recom­mend the most for visitors?

James Camp­bell: To be honest, not even naming any par­ti­cu­lar distil­lery, what i would recom­mend to anyo­ne even remo­te­ly inte­res­ted in good whis­ky is to choo­se any tour in the Spey­si­de hos­ted by the mas­ter distil­ler hims­elf. The­se guys have 30 to 50 years of expe­ri­ence, they love to share some of that in the­se tours every sin­gle time and some­ti­mes they are hiding a nice litt­le cask some­whe­re and will share some of that too on this spe­cial occa­si­on. You talk and may­be dine and after that tour and expe­ri­ence you are fri­ends, you have a rela­ti­onship, it‘s beautiful.

Q: Are the­re any inte­res­t­ing sta­tis­tics you get from the tastings, how dif­fe­rent are the whis­ky tas­tes in New York, Ams­ter­dam or Cologne?

James Camp­bell: We don‘t save or share very detail­ed sta­tis­tics but for exam­p­le last year the „21 or older“-category was won by just 3 votes total. Cana­da cho­se a dif­fe­rent one than Colo­gne that year and in the end every subt­le dif­fe­rence chan­ges the outcome.

Q: Some ana­lysts say the peak of the whis­ky boom is rea­ched by now, what do you think will be the deve­lo­pe­ment in the next 5–10 years with all the new distil­le­ries and even lost distil­le­ries being build and rebuild?

James Camp­bell: Yes, every major distil­lery and a some of the smal­ler ones inves­ted a lot into the future, their pro­ces­ses and more. They are thin­king 10 to 20 years ahead, stock manage­ment is more important the last years than ever befo­re and this will help them with any smal­ler pro­blems during the next years. I think the long­term trend is still show­ing a slight posi­ti­ve cur­ve, may­be with some bumps but over­all going more upwards. The­re is a slight reduc­tion of the pace, in the mar­ket as well as within the distil­le­ries, you won‘t have 5 to 10 new distil­le­ries ope­ning or being build again every year.

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Jörg Bechtold beschäftigt sich seit Ende der 90er Jahre mit Single Malt Whisky. Auf mehreren Reisen nach Schottland hat er Land und Leute kennengelernt sowie viele Destillerien besucht. 2002 hatte er die WHISKYFANPAGE.DE begründet, seit 2006 schreibt er dieses Blog und ist außerdem als Referent für Whisky-Tastings tätig.