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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