Toby Wingfield Digby was born and bred in the West Country (Dorset) on a farm and studied agriculture at Cierncester RAC. This led to several years of farming abroad in Australia and New Zealand. He returned to the UK and undertook an apprenticeship in hospitality which led to him running his own business, a country inn in Hertfordshire (40 seat dining room and 8 bedrooms set on two acres of ground). He married in 1980 and has two daughters and two sons.
In 2008 Toby and his wife sold the inn and moved up to the Highlands where they live in an old fishing lodge on the banks of the River Avon near Glenlivet. It was from here the Toby established Speyside Whisky Tours, which feeds into the Speyside Whisky Trail and attracts visitors from all over the world. Toby has a firm belief that his years of experience working “front of house” has given him the skill-set to be able to manage Speyside Whisky Tours and look after guests in a way that sets them apart from other tour operators.
How do the experiences you offer at Speyside Whiskey Tours give guests a unique perspective on the history, people or culture of your region?
The history of whisky … this is a very important subject that takes up 40% of the interpretation that I feel is vital for all visitors to grasp and understand. It is basically an account of the concept of producing raw spiriy … where it happened and how it made its way to Scotland. The problems that beset the industry as it struggled to survive through time, the issues that were confronted like ‘Prohibition,’ the endless taxation debacle, illicit whisky production, smuggling, and the dogged determination that the Scots have that eventually allowed them the freedom to distill and produce whisky legally. This is fascinating story that highlights the determination and pride that Scots have that few other nations could match.
The people involved in the industry … again you have to delve back in time to truly understand where the skill set originated from, the quality of the fine whisky that is produced today is thanks to generations of determined, focused individuals striving to produce the highest quality whisky, regardless of the the costs.
Culture of the area … this is a much larger subject and goes back centuries and involves numerous moments in time to significant eras when the vikings invaded and the in going inter clan rivalry that still exists today (mercifully without the bloodshed that accounted for so many lives lost over the centuries). It is important to highlight certain people and events like The Battle of Colloden, Bonny Prince Charlie, Robert the Bruce, to illustrate how these leaders influenced the culture of Scotland.
How have the experiences that you offer evolved since their inception?
No two parties of guests will want the same cross section of information and so one has to be flexible and identify what the guests want to know. For example, recently I had to abandon an afternoons agenda and take my guests to meet a pedigree Aberdeen Angus breeder, so that he could breed our local genes into his herd in South Africa!
You see, in order to deliver a successful interpretation to ones guests it requires a high level of social skills that will then allow you to communicate with the guests in a user friendly way. Without these skills the task of guiding guests would become fraught with difficulties.
What is one detail of an experience you provide that may go unnoticed by guests, but which you feel is important?
Addressing their knowledge on whisky … in all of its aspects!
What do you wish every guest knew as they consider participating in the experiences you offer?
It is helpful if they have a reasonable general knowledge on the subject, however, if they are very knowledgeable this naturally creates its own challenges.
What is one travel trend that really excites you?
I am excited by the increase in people who are traveling with no agenda and simply discovering places by hearing about them from local sources, I did this for about five years.
What sets Speyside Whiskey Tours apart from other, similar, tour companies?
Our personal, exclusive level of service.
What is one insiders tip to getting the most out of an experiential travel vacation?
One of the following: enthusiasm, optimism, or humor
What is one strategy that has helped your business to grow? Please explain how.
We have grown through attention to detail and remaining focused on the essential priorities.
What is one personal habit that has helped you to be successful?
I never consider that I have succeeded, the challenge is always ahead of us in this trade!
Please share one instance where a guest had a moving or emotional reaction to the experience you provided to them.
The key here is understanding what makes the Speyside the finest producer of single malts.