Kelsey McKechnie and David C Stewart MBE

Kelsey McKechnie and David C Stewart MBE

The Balvenie announces Kelsey McKechnie as malt master

26 October, 2022

The Balvenie has appointed Kelsey McKechnie as malt master, an announcement that comes as The Balvenie Distillery celebrates David C Stewart MBE’s 60th anniversary with the release of The Balvenie Sixty.

The Balvenie Sixty is the first McKechnie signed as a malt master, as the whisky was selected by her for Stewart on his anniversary. The two share a strong bond, as McKechnie noted that she is “extremely humbled to have learned from David, an incredibly knowledgeable and patient man, and a living whisky legend”.

McKechnie was first appointed to the position of Apprentice Malt Master at the age of 26, becoming one of the youngest women globally to achieve this title. She first joined as a Technical Graduate in 2014, after graduating from The University of West Scotland in 2014 with a BSc in Biology and Biological Sciences. She then studied an MSc in Brewing and Distilling at Heriot-Watt University.

McKechnie commented: “My apprenticeship at The Balvenie taught me many things, but particularly about patience, collaboration and perseverance. Continuing our craft is a privilege and I look forward to seeing The Balvenie through the generations to come as a malt master.”

Known for her progressive yet respectful approach to crafting The Balvenie’s whiskies, McKechnie has become an integral part of the team over the last four years, taking on more responsibility in all aspects of the malt master role.

“Tradition is very important at the Balvenie, it’s how we maintain the quality of our spirit, but it is a balancing act as we also want to innovate. This experiment was to look at how I could elevate the house style through using new Oak casks, handcrafted for this whisky at Kelvin Cooperage in the USA,” McKechnie added.

An example of the mentorship between Stewart and McKechnie is the release of ‘Sweet Toast of American Oak’, the first whisky innovation led by McKechnie using the technique, cask finishing, which was pioneered by Stewart in the 1980s. 

“Over the past few years my relationship with David has evolved from a teacher to a mentor and now a friendship. I look forward to building my own legacy within the whisky industry, shaping and innovating, whilst honouring the tradition that The Balvenie is built on,” McKechnie continued.

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