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.

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

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