Whisky Magazine Issue 107
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Gavin D. Smith meets the man celebrating 50 years in the industry
The ‘quiet man of blending' has been dragged from the shadows – not kicking and screaming, of course, more a polite acceptance of all the fuss. And fuss there should be, for in this age of short-term employment contracts and changes of career direction, David Stewart – aka ‘The Quiet Man' – has clocked up a remarkable 50 years working with William Grant & Sons Ltd.
Even though whisky blenders tend to remain loyal to individual companies and brands for lengthy periods of time, and William Grant's has serious form when it comes to long-serving employees, Stewart's half century with the firm is a very special achievement.
Born in Ayr, he recalls: “I left school in June 1962 and began work with William Grant's as a whisky stores clerk – which was actually a good grounding for what was to come. My boss was the master blender Hamish Robertson. For the first two years the job was just clerical, working with ledgers and everything was written by hand. Then after two years Hamish started training me to nose. I was nosing new spirit from Glenfiddich and Balvenie, and then after it opened in 1964, also new spirit from Girvan distillery.
“Gradually I got more training and then got to make up vattings to the blend recipe. This built up my understanding of different malts, varying ages and different casks. In 1974 Hamish Robertson moved to join William Lawson's as their master blender and I got his job. I was only 29 years old and just the fifth master blender in the his...