The Balvenie has announced the appointment of 26 year-old Kelsey McKechnie as its new apprentice Malt Master.
McKechnie will now begin her apprenticeship under the whisky industry’s longest serving Malt Master, David Stewart, who has spent 56 years working in the industry. Stewart was an apprentice himself for 12 years under former master blender Hamish Robertson, and he also mentored Glenfiddich Malt Master Brian Kinsman for eight years.
Speaking about McKechnie’s appointment, Stewart said: “It’s hard to underplay the significance of this announcement – the appointment to apprentice Malt Master represents a once in a lifetime opportunity for anyone working in the whisky industry. To achieve this at just 26 years old is a testament to Kelsey’s abilities.
“She is a precious talent; with a real flair for distillation, a dedication to her craft and a self-assurance and poise that completely belies her young age. She has also shown that she has an expert palate and skill for nosing and assessing whisky, which combined with her natural abilities and academic background made her the ideal candidate to be my apprentice.
“I very much look forward to mentoring Kelsey as she continues her journey into a world of distilling and maturing whisky.”
McKechnie’s journey to the role began at the University of the West of Scotland, where she studied Biology and Biological Sciences. After graduating in 2014 with a fascination for the technique and skill behind spirit distillation, McKechnie went on to further study for an Msc in Brewing and Distilling at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, which she graduates this year.
“It goes without saying that it’s both an incredible honour and a privilege to be announced as The Balvenie’s new apprentice Malt Master,” McKechnie said. “Over the past four years, the team at William Grant & Sons have provided me with a wealth of support, guidance and knowledge on all things spirits, and I look forward to continuing my journey and development under David’s tutelage.
“One thing I really love about nosing and tasting different whiskies is the memories it immediately invokes. I’ll always remember the first sip of The Balvenie whisky I tasted. It was up at the distillery and just the smell alone took me straight back to spending time with my family, in particular with my Grandfather. Every bottle makes me think of something different and although I’m a scientist by trade, I really enjoy the emotional response that whisky can bring.”
In her role as apprentice malt master, McKechnie’s main responsibilities will include ensuring excellence and consistency in each bottle of The Balvenie, while also maintaining that spirit housed at the distillery in Dufftown is maturing in the desired direction. She will also play an active role in assisting Stewart with the distillery’s work in whisky innovation, sampling and assessing and launching expressions of the future.