David C. Stewart, long-time malt master at The Balvenie, is being given a new honorary role to mark his six decades of service to the distillery.
From 1 August Stewart will become an honorary ambassador for The Balvenie, through which role he will be focused on sharing his breadth of knowledge and expertise with others in the whisky industry, in Scotland and beyond.
Stewart's career at The Balvenie began when he was 17 years old with a 12-year apprenticeship. He was named malt master in 1974 and has held the position ever since, developing The Balvenie's award-winning whisky range and pushing boundaries in production through releases including its famous DoubleWood.
His protégé Kelsey McKechnie, who was named joint malt master shortly after Stewart marked his 60th anniversary with The Balvenie in October 2022, will take on sole responsibility for production at the Speyside site as malt master. After joining The Balvenie in 2014 as a graduate, McKechnie was appointed apprentice malt master at the age of 26 and spent six years training with Stewart before her promotion to joint malt mater last year.
Stewart said: “Craftsmanship lies at the core of The Balvenie, and we rely on the passing of skills, processes, knowledge, and experience from generation to generation to maintain our tradition and distinctive character. Over my time working alongside Kelsey, she has shown a remarkable talent for creating exceptional whiskies and the ultimate dedication to mastering her craft. I leave the responsibility of future whisky releases in her trusted hands as I move into my new role sharing my passion with the world of The Balvenie.”
McKechnie added: “Not many people can say they have had the opportunity to learn directly from someone within the same calibre as David C. Stewart. As his rich legacy within the whisky industry lives on for generations to come, within this new chapter of direction, I will continue to use and build upon his innovation and techniques, whilst putting my stamp on future whisky innovation at The Balvenie.”
To coincide with this changing of the guard, The Balvenie is releasing a new limited edition – the first to have been solely designed by McKechnie. A Revelation of Cask and Character, released as part of the distillery's Stories range, is a 19-year-old single malt fully matured in ex-oloroso casks. It is the first Stories release to have been 100 per cent sherry cask matured.
The whisky is designed to pay homage to the art of coopering, both in the sherry heartland of Jerez and at The Balvenie's own cooperage in Speyside, which currently employs 11 qualified coopers and four apprentices.
McKechnie said: “Not many distillers have a cooperage on-site and it is so important to the development of our exceptional whiskies. We have a collaborative process with our coopers, which offers flexibility in ideas and innovation, allowing us to experiment with different casks to explore new flavours. By maturing the whisky entirely in European oloroso sherry casks, drinkers experience new depths of spice, rich toffee and honey that are soon met with toasted oak, providing an overflowing heat.”
Stewart added: "Not only does this liquid tell the story of the cooper, but it is the first expression designed solely by Kelsey, in which she has mastered the understanding of not just whisky, but of wood, and its impact on the maturation process.”
The Balvenie A Revelation of Cask and Character will be available to purchase from 1 August from The Whisky Shop, priced at £307.