With an astounding 60 years in whisky, David C. Stewart is the longest serving malt master in the history of the entire Scotch industry. Naturally, it is fitting that The Balvenie Sixty, the whisky house’s oldest and rarest expression to date, comes from a single historic cask from 1962 — the same year that Stewart began his storied career at the distillery.
Each bottling of the rarest expression is essentially a time capsule of his lifetime at The Balvenie, where he went from handling tasks like writing ledgers and managing invoices to becoming the industry icon of today, having his hand in crafting fine whiskies of global acclaim.
Stewart started as a whisky stocks clerk at William Grant & Sons, and eventually worked his way up to becoming master blender in 1974. His formidable knowledge and experience have led him to produce an award-winning range of single malts and blends for the distiller, as well as develop innovative techniques that have since been widely adopted by the whisky industry at large.
Chief amongst his many achievements was pioneering cask finishing, where the whisky is further matured in a secondary cask, adding a unique dimension of flavour to the spirit. His groundbreaking technique, now also used by different distilleries worldwide, can be tasted in The Balvenie’s signature DoubleWood 12 Year Old, where the whisky is aged in American oak bourbon casks, then finished in European sherry oak casks to develop a nose of sweet fruit and Oloroso sherry notes.
A tribute to a whisky icon
The Balvenie Sixty, needless to say, is an exceedingly rare expression, with only 71 bottles released globally. Launched last October, it is also the first whisky from The Balvenie to feature signatures of David C. Stewart and Kelsey McKechnie as joint malt masters.
McKechnie, who was appointed The Balvenie’s Malt Master last October, selected the cask as a tribute to her mentor. She says: “I have learned so much from David at work. His mentorship has made a profound impact on me and finding a cask to fit such an incredible character in the Distillery’s history is a great honour.”
Describing the complex, vibrant and lively spirit, McKechnie says: “On the nose the whisky has a mesmerising array of autumnal aromas; lavender, heather and bracken. Whilst rich toffee, roasted coffee and beautifully layered oak dominate the palate. The flavour evolves with time revealing bursts of cloves, nutmeg, charred oak and candied orange in an exceptional long lasting finish.”
Artfully presented in a finely-crafted tube casing of gold, glass and brass, The Balvenie Sixty is a masterpiece reflecting Stewart’s six decades in whisky making. Each of the elegant packaging’s five layers are etched with personal anecdotes from David’s handwritten notes and significant memories. The sixth decade is represented by the hand-blown crystal bottle itself, inscribed with an introspection from McKechnie on the current decade of whisky-making and what the future holds.
Stewart’s illustrious career is marked by numerous awards and accolades, including International Wine & Spirits Competition (IWSC) recognition for Outstanding Achievement in the Scotch Whisky Industry, the Icon of Whisky Award by Whisky Magazine in 2009 and IWSC’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005. In 2016, he was appointed a Member of the Most Excellent Order of The British Empire (MBE) and presented with the MBE medal on behalf of Her Majesty The Queen in 2016 for services to the Scotch whisky industry.
“I started at the distillery in 1962, as a whisky stocks clerk, this liquid; a new make spirit was filled into a collection of traditional European Oak Hogshead casks. For six decades it has rested and matured, now marking quite a poignant moment,” remarks Stewart. Nurtured for a lifetime under his careful guidance, The Balvenie Sixty has evolved into an exceptional whisky — a personal and beautiful reflection of his hand and mind.
The Balvenie Sixty is only available to purchase from The Distillers Library. Interested parties may write to firstname.lastname@example.org to register interest.