Meet the Masters: Know the Master Blenders behind some of the greatest whisky brand
Making a whisky is not a whole lot different than music, and whisky makers, no less than artists and performers in our opinion. We say that because like musical instruments, simply having the same ones don’t produce the same results, rather depending on the skill and artistry of the genius behind them. Like a musician, it is the Master Blender that is the creative mind at work when it comes to whisky although their performances are mostly inaudible.
As wildly popular as whisky brands may be, the people who pour their hearts and souls into elevating and sustaining the prestige of these brands receive a relatively paltry amount of the limelight.
What does a Master Blender do?
Colin Scott – Chivas Regal
If Colin Scott himself were a bottle of whisky, he’d be an incredibly rare and vintage expression. Such is the vast expanse of the experience and expertise of the Master Blender who created many of the critically acclaimed bestsellers for the house of Chivas Regal.
Colin Scott joined Chivas Regal in 1973, working his way up to the role of Master Blender in 1989, he has left an everlasting impact on the brand as we know it today. The man created the Chivas Regal 18, and later the supremely coveted Chivas Regal 25, preserving and even helping create a legacy of Chivas Regal that shall outlast us all.
George Ballantine & Family
George Ballantine was the creator of the Ballantine family heirloom, and the blueprint of one of the world’s largest selling Scotch whiskies, the Ballantine’s Finest. His contribution to the Ballantine’s brand doesn’t conclude there, as he was also the man who established the family business.
Together with his three sons, George Jr, Archibald and Daniel, George Ballantine earned a Royal Warrant for his business in 1895. The family put George Ballantine’s blueprints, his knowledge and their stock towards developing the recipe for the Ballantine’s Finest, a recipe that remained unchanged since 1910!
Sandy Hyslop – Ballantine’s & Chivas Brothers
This Master Blender is the right blend of new school innovation and respect for old school tradition. Sandy Hyslop’s involvement with some of the world’s most lucrative Scotch whisky brands peaked when he was appointed as the Master Blender by the Chivas Brothers, for whom he also handles the Ballantine’s brand of blended Scotch whiskies.
Sandy Hyslop learned from the best under Jack Goudy and Robert Hicks, polishing his skills until he put them to good work, unleashing is mastery with
Billy Leighton – Jameson Irish whiskey
He is the man that has spent a decade as the Master Blender at Jameson, rising to the rank from an accountant’s position at the company he joined 40 years earlier. Billy Leighton’s journey at Jameson is no ordinary one, and neither is the job cut out for him today.
Billy Leighton is the Master Blender for other brands associated with Jameson Whiskey such as Redbreast, Green Spot and over 60 other brands and products combined. As much as his job is creative, Leighton’s job is also meticulous and he does everything he can to keep the world’s best Irish whiskey perched right atop its pinnacle.
George Robertson – Ballantine’s
Faced with insurmountable odds for a Master Blender, George Robertson did not have an easy tenure at Ballantine’s. Tasked with picking up the Ballantine’s brand after the First World War, and over a decade of Prohibition in the United States, Robertson was left with a surplus of impeccably matured spirit.
He put his knowledge of the craft to good use, creating what would go on to become the world’s first, and the most awarded 17 Year Old Scotch whisky. Robertson also created the rare and luxurious Ballantine’s 30, a remarkable drink that has endured over the years. He was the first Master Blender who wasn’t a part of the Ballantine’s family, and his excellent work cemented his legacy for the brand forever.
David Stewart – William Grant & Sons
David Stewart is a veteran who has enjoyed an illustrious and prolonged career with William Grant & Sons. He has played a pivotal role in the success of many brands under the Grant & Sons portfolio such as Glenfiddich, Balvenie among other well-known names in the industry.
With over 56 years of experience under his belt, he was the longest serving Master Blender in the industry who pioneered the ‘two-cask maturation’ technique and brought it into greater practice. Without David Stewart, perhaps many special cask-finished Scotch and other whiskies would have never been created, robbing us of some truly glittering whiskies.
Helen Mulholland – Bushmills
Helen Mulholland’s journey in the whiskey world has not been a short one. She has been involved in the industry in some manner or the other, academically or professionally since she was young. She was appointed as the Master Blender at Bushmills in 2005, and has since been the guiding force behind the product that resurrected the Bushmills brand.
It is no small feat for a woman to make her presence felt in an industry that has been saturated by men for a very long time, yet it wasn’t a glass ceiling that held Helen Mulholland behind. She became the very first woman to be inducted into Whisky Magazine’s Hall Of Fame in 2018, a testimony to her talent and expertise.
If that isn’t enough to distinguish a man of Jim Beveridge’s stature, his work in the industry also earned him the Order of the British Empire from Queen Elizabeth II. Add to that, he is also credited with pioneering and introducing a much more scientific methodology in blending at Johnnie Walker, courtesy to his academic background in chemistry.
Shinji Fukuyo – Suntory
At the biggest Japanese whisky making house of Suntory, the position of Master Blender is passed through the family, and the Chief Blender is a position held by the expert who creates new blends, and undertakes most duties that Master Blenders in other countries practice. Fukuyo has mastered the art of blending