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Meet David Stewart MBE, the longest-serving malt master in the Scotch whisky industry

David Stewart

Luxury Lifestyle Magazine takes a detailed look at the inspirational story behind David Stewart MBE – the longest-serving malt master in the Scotch whisky industry.

David Stewart started work at The Balvenie distillery in 1962 at the age of just 17 and remains one of the best-loved and most respected craftsmen in the business. On 5th July 2016 he was awarded an MBE, Member of the Order of the British Empire, by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for services to the Scotch whisky industry at a ceremony in The Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Scotland.

David began a 12-year apprenticeship when he started at the distillery and during this time he mastered the skills of nosing and creating the best quality single malt Scotch whisky. David was then appointed The Balvenie Malt Master and has held that position ever since.

Head Blender from WGrants David Stewart.
David started work at The Balvenie distillery in 1962 at the age of just 17

Over his career David has developed an award-winning range of single malt whiskies, which have earned him some of the industry’s top accolades and helped the independent William Grant & Sons become Distiller of the Year an unprecedented five times by the International Spirits Challenge (ISC), four times by the International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) and for the first time by the World Whiskies Awards in 2011.

There are just a few Scotch whisky malt masters in the world and as The Balvenie Malt Master, David requires specialist skills to ensure quality and consistency across the range of whiskies. His passion for retaining tradition, as well as championing experimentation, makes The Balvenie a refined and distinguished single malt that is as well loved amongst newer whisky enthusiasts as it is amongst seasoned whisky aficionados. After almost 54 years, David has this supreme skill down to a fine art – and his role is one of the five rare crafts that make The Balvenie Distillery unique in today’s world.

Despite his well-known avoidance of the limelight, David has been widely recognised by industry peers. He was awarded the Grand Prix of Gastronomy by the British Academy of Gastronomes (2005), as well as being conferred lifetime achievement awards from both the International Wine & Spirit Competition (2005) and highly influential whisky magazine Malt Advocate (2007) and the Icon of Whisky award from the much-respected Whisky Magazine (2009).

Head Blender from WGrants David Stewart.
Over his career David has developed an award-winning range of single malt whiskies

David’s list of key achievements as The Balvenie Malt Master, aside from his MBE, includes the development of two cask maturation in the 1980s, unheard of at the time, and these days an established technique referred to as ‘finishing’ and widely enjoyed as The Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year Old and The Balvenie DoubleWood 17 Year Old.

His spirit of experimentation also led him to create the ground-breaking Islay Cask 17 Year Old in 2001, this paved the way for a series of successful limited edition expressions, such as Balvenie PortWood 21 Year Old and Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 Year Old, all pushing the boundaries of The Balvenie’s traditional place in the world of single malt Scotch whisky.

David’s unrivalled expertise has been displayed in the Single Barrel Range, which includes three expressions – Single Barrel First Fill 12 Year Old, Single Barrel Sherry Cask 15 Year Old and Single Barrel Traditional Oak 25 Year Old.

Most recently, David has created The Balvenie DCS Compendium, a collection of 25 casks from five different decades of Balvenie history. Each cask illustrates the distillery’s character and how the characteristics of The Balvenie develop over time.

DThe Balvenie DCS Compendium

David’s dedication to his craft, coupled with his modest, unassuming manner has made him one of the best loved and well-respected figures in the Scotch whisky industry. He continues to work with the skilled teams of craftsmen at The Balvenie Distillery in Dufftown, Speyside in Scotland.

David lives outside Glasgow, Scotland with his wife Ellen and has three children Heather, Colin and Alan and two grandchildren, Rory, three and Lily, one. An avid Ayr United football fan, David also finds the time to indulge in curling and a round of golf in his spare time.

We will certainly be raising a glass to David and his achievements this evening.