With whisky constantly in the news as sales increase all around the world, Helena Nicklin spoke to to Alwynne Gwilt, brand ambassador for The Balvenie, about the rise of whisky on screen, women in whisky, and the YouTube series The Craftman’s Dinner, which features Michel Roux Jr and The Balvenie whisky.
HN: The world has been drinking whisky for years, but recently we’re turning our cameras towards it more and more. What is this series?
AG: Whisky is a fascinating category – it’s had so many ups and downs over the last couple of centuries but it has remained a constant; always being made, always being appreciated to some degree in some corner of the world. In our William Grant & Sons UK 2018 Market report, we’ve seen that the pendulum is definitely swinging towards a growth in popularity for whisky. It’s now the second largest category within the spirits sector and accounts for 21% of all spirit sales. This has been significantly helped by the on-trade opting to feature more cocktails which use whisk(e)y as a base ingredient, and the fact it is in the news more frequently as an increasing number of distilleries open around the world.
We’re fortunate at The Balvenie to have been operating for such a long time – William Grant and his family started building the distillery in 1892 and the stills began operating in 1893, making this the 125th year of our operations. One thing that has remained constant throughout is the dedication we have to creating a spirit using as many hands-on techniques as we can – from our floor maltings to our cooperage, we look to take care of as many things on site as possible. Being in the same family ownership since opening has been a great boon to how we’ve been able to do this.
For this final installment of The Balvenie Craftmen’s Dinner Series, Michel spent a week at our distillery in Scotland working with three of our expert craftspeople to learn the ins and outs of how they make The Balvenie the unique single malt that it is. This included learning about barley from John Evans, our maltman, whose team is in charge of the floor maltings; George Singer, a coppersmith who maintains the copper stills where the essential process of distillation happens; and, Kelsey McKechnie, Whisky Technologist, who monitors the maturation, flavour and blend of the whisky.