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MBE for iconic whisky maker David Stewart

David Stewart of The Balvenie has been recognised for his remarkable career in whisky after being awarded an MBE in the New Year's Honours list. The industry's longest serving malt master has been recognised for his services to Scotch whisky.

After nearly 54 years in the industry, David’s pioneering techniques have had a profound impact on Scotch whisky production methods used today. He is renowned for his groundbreaking work particularly around ‘cask finishes’ for The Balvenie and has developed a number of award winning whiskies enjoyed and loved by whisky drinkers all over the world. He is one of only 12 malt masters in the Scotch whisky industry, a small band of master craftsmen who have perfected the art, alchemy and scientific understanding of whisky making, and he is the longest-serving of them all.

Stella David, chief executive of William Grant & Sons, the company that owns The Balvenie, says: “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.”

David Stewart started work at The Balvenie distillery in 1962 at the age of just 17. During a 12-year apprenticeship, 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, making him the most experienced malt master in the industry.

Despite his well-known avoidance of the limelight, David has been widely recognised by industry peers with a number of accolades including the Grand Prix of Gastronomy by the British Academy of Gastronomes, lifetime achievement awards from the International Wine & Spirit Competition and whisky magazine Malt Advocate, and was made an Icon of Whisky from Whisky Magazine and a Master of the Quaich, from the Keepers of the Quaich society, an international organisation established to promote Scotch whisky worldwide.

David’s list of key achievements as The Balvenie Malt Master includes the development of two cask maturation in the 1980s, unheard of at the time, but 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.

In 2012, David celebrated his 50th anniversary at the distillery with the release of The Balvenie Fifty, one of The Balvenie’s most rare and precious releases. His spirit of experimentation led to The Balvenie 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. Just recently, David curated The Balvenie DCS Compendium, an ambitious launch of 25 whiskies released over five years, and a fitting tribute to his incredible career.

11 January 2016 - Rebecca Sterritt Paragraph Publishing, content manager