The Balvenie’s David Stewart named MBEBy Kristiane Sherry
David Stewart, malt master at William Grant & Sons-owned single malt The Balvenie, has been recognised with an MBE for services to the Scotch whisky industry in the UK’s New Year’s Honours list.
An MBE, or Member of the Order of the British Empire, is awarded by a government ‘honours committee’ to recognise “significant achievement or outstanding service to the community”.
Stewart has worked in the Scotch industry for 54 years and today is one of only 12 malt masters in the sector. He is noted for developing cask finishes for The Balvenie in the 1980s – a new process at the time. His cask experimentation subsequently led to the release of The Balvenie 21 Year Old and The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 Year Old.
He started his career at The Balvenie distillery in 1962 on a 12-year apprenticeship, aged 17. He was then appointed malt master and has held the position ever since. In 2012, he celebrated his 50th anniversary at the distillery with the release of The Balvenie 50. He also recently curated The Balvenie DCS Compendium, a series of 25 whiskies to be unveiled over five years and a tribute to his career.
“I am truly honoured to receive this award. When I started my career as a whisky stocks clerk in 1962 I didn’t expect to become a malt master so when I first found out about the MBE it came as a massive shock,” commented Stewart.
“The hardest part has been keeping it quiet even from my own family. I feel incredibly proud and I’ve been very fortunate to work for a family run company because it has allowed me the freedom to experiment throughout my career. It’s a privilege working in this industry so to be rewarded and recognised in this manner is very humbling.”
Stella David, chief executive of William Grant & Sons, added: “David’s innovative approach and total dedication to his craft, coupled with his modest, unassuming manner have made him one of the best loved and respected craftsmen in the business.
“The company is absolutely delighted for David and this honour is testament to the fact that David is one of the greatest master blenders of a generation. Not that he would ever admit it himself.
“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. Over five decades, David has honed 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.”
The Balvenie DCS Compendium, the celebration of Stewart’s work, was announced in October 2014.