Malt Master David Stewart’s 50 years

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It is amazing when you think about it; 50 years with William Grant & Sons. When David Stewart began his apprenticeship, Glenfiddich was just about to become the first single malt to be exported from Scotland in any volume, Balvenie was a very rare whisky to see anywhere, and most of the world drank blends. How things have changed. Cask acquisition was different, with Sherry casks coming from Jerez filled with sherry until the 1970′s & the fact that there were far less ex-bourbon casks than there are now. David’s job has changed. Many more casks, many more expressions. Many things have changed, but David has ran with these changes, and that is impressive. Even in my short career, I have maybe changed job 5 or 6 times, so it is a tribute to David, and to William Grant & Sons, that he has continued to prosper with the company.


(Bonnie Balvenie)

David has been through boom, more boom, bust, boom and bust again (in terms of global economy) and has still maintained his position, his focus and his drive. He has a high level of concentration on the task at hand, an unerring memory (as I discovered last time we met) and a pioneering spirit. With Doublewood, David was one of the  pioneers of wood finishing. With Grant’s Sherry Cask, David pioneered cask finishing for blends and with Ale cask, David pioneered ale cask finishing on whisky, something I have never seen replicated at that scale.

You see it through the consistency of the Balvenie range. All of them have a signature that runs strongly through them, and all of them are well appreciated by whisky geeks & newcomers alike. This consistency comes from really knowing your whisky, and really knowing what you want to create. It comes from time.

I would even go as far to say that Balvenie Doublewood is the best beginners single malt, as it has sweetness, but also a complexity that entices new whisky drinkers. And with drams like the 21 year old port finish, you have a fantastic whisky, with all sorts of flavours, which is affordable and accessible to the normal consumer, while still engaging the whisky geek.

I think you see with David’s dedication, a quality shines through. The whiskies bottled by Balvenie are of a very high quality, as are Glenfiddich’s, and Grant’s. It is also a testament to David, that he has trained such an excellent apprentice in Brian Kinsman.

So here’s to David. Slàinte Mhath

Chris Hoban


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