Inver House Distillers was founded in Founded in 1964 and are highly active in the warehousing and blending of Scotch whisky. Their Master Blender, Stuart Harvey, has spent over a decade at Inver House. Having personally nosed over 100,000 casks, he covers the company’s entire range of Scotch whiskies. This includes four different single malts and the Hankey Bannister, Catto’s, and Inver House blends.
1. Can you tells us what the role of a Master Blender entails
As Master Blender I am responsible for the quality of all the Inver House Single Malts and Blended Whiskies. Our range includes some of the best loved whiskies on the market today, including Old Pulteney, Speyburn, anCnoc and Balblair single malts, and our blend Hankey Bannister.
2. Your regional headquarters are located in Airdrie, are there any benefits to being in that area as far as the whisky is concerned?
There are 70,000 casks maturing at our five distilleries around Scotland – Pulteney, Knockdhu, Balblair, Speyburn and Balmenach. We have a team of trained ‘nosers’ where I work at our headquarters in Airdrie. We nose all the casks and choose the ones that are ready for bottling at various ages. Casks are brought down from each distillery to be emptied here, and bottled to produce our different malts and blends.
3. Your job title sounds pretty impressive; how does one go about becoming a Master Blender?
I have a BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry from the University of Strathclyde. I started out in the brewing industry when I graduated in 1987, and after becoming a Master Brewer in 1995, I decided to move from beer to spirits. I joined Highland Distillers and have been in the whisky industry for 23 years. I became Master Blender at Inver House in 2003, after the previous Master Blender, Eddie Drummond retired. Eddie had been with Inver House for 36 years, so it was a great honour to be chosen as his successor.
4. When creating a new blend or batch, what are the key factors that you need to consider?
With blended whisky, the biggest challenge is to make each batch as consistent as possible. We have a recipe for each blend on our system and we ensure we choose casks that will match that recipe. It’s very rare to be given the opportunity to create a new blend, but when it comes along, it’s a great challenge and one that is very exciting to be a part of.
5. What’s the most frustrating misconception about blended whisky?
People assume that blended whisky is not as good as single malt, however this is not the case. The quality, taste and complexity of a good blend can be just as impressive as any single malt if it’s made with exceptional quality whisky and by an expert team.
And just for fun…
6. Which would you pick: being world-class attractive, a genius or famous for doing something great?
Definitely famous for doing something great!
7. When you’re not sampling whisky, what drink would we find you enjoying?
I still enjoy beer, as you’d expect from a Master Brewer.
8. If you could have a whisky with anyone from history, who would it be?
I would like to enjoy a dram of one of my whiskies with Bill McGregor, my former boss at Highland Distillers and a man I very much admired. Bill died very suddenly in 1998 and I would like to chat to him about everything I have learned in the past 20 years.
9. If you had the world’s attention for 30 seconds, what would you say?
If at first you don’t succeed, try a dram !!
10. Would you eat at a restaurant that was really dirty if the food and drink was amazing?
A big part of my job is travel, and having been to many different countries in the world, I’ve eaten in some restaurants that have not looked particularly clean. However the food is usually amazing – made even better when eaten alongside some of our whiskies.
To learn more about Inver House Distillers and their brands, head over to their website.
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