Stuart Harvey, Master blender at Inverhouse distillers is the latest member of the Industry to give us an insight into their daily working life.. Inverhouse distillers was founded in 1964, and has five distilleries in its portfolio, Pulteney, Balblair, Knockdhu, Speyburn and Balmenach.. Inver House also produces more than whisky with gin, and vodka also in production..
Stuart Harvey ( Inverhouse Distillers )
Why did you decide on a career in the world of whisky?
I started out in the brewing industry, after Graduating from the University of Strathclyde with a BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry. I worked in the brewing industry for 7.5 years, including Master Brewer, before joining the distilling industry. One of my reasons for leaving brewing and joining distilling is that brewing is very scientific and everything is tightly controlled. Whereas with a Master Blender, in my opinion, you require a natural gift which can then be trained. A balance between the science of the production process, experience of nosing the casks and talent is required. The ‘nose’ is the most sensitive piece of equipment we have and essential for a Master Blender. I had already ‘nosed’ 100,000 casks before I joined Inver House in 2003. I always say blending is an art not a science, as there are many things you cannot explain. This is what I like about whisky production, we still rely on the unknown to make whisky so complex.
You work for Inver House Distillers; can you tell us a bit about the distilleries and whiskies that you work with?
Our distilleries are traditional malt distilleries and include Pulteney, Balblair, Knockdhu, Speyburn and Balmenach. We’re very proud of our whiskies and we’re honored to have won ‘Whisky Magazine’s Icons of Whisky, Whisky Distiller of the Year 2017. A historic win for us, which came at the end of a year in which we exceeded all previous records at international competitions for the quality of our whisky. Our single malt brands Old Pulteney, anCnoc, Balblair and Speyburn, and our blend Hankey Bannister, have all won an impressive collection of trophies, gold and silver medals.
Can you tell us a little about your day to day job and what is involved?
Every day brings something new and fresh challenges appear when you least expect. It takes me about 1 hour to drive to our Head Office in Airdrie, however I find this useful thinking time as I will be planning what I have to do during the day. However, always allow time for the unexpected!
I arrive in my office at 08:00am and will immediately look at the production schedule to see if new orders have appeared for blends or single malts. If there are new orders I will add them to my list for blending/vatting. My office is beside the Warehouse Team as I am responsible for all the Operations at Airdrie. Therefore, I will liaise with the warehouse team to ensure blending is on schedule and that casks have been delivered for nosing/blending. After this I will sit with Mark Williamson, who joined us in 2006 and is now learning the ‘art’ of the Blender. We discuss the plan for the day ahead and produce the Blending Instructions that are required. The rest of the morning is usually spent planning production for the blends and single malts.
At 11:30am I will usually do some nosing, I find my nose is most sensitive just before lunch, making this a good time to work on some single malts or blends. Lunch is spent at my desk, replying to e-mails or planning deliveries of casks.
The rest of the day can vary. I visit the malt distilleries regularly, therefore I’ll plan visits to Speyside to nose casks at Knockdhu and Speyburn. I also travel to the Northern Highlands to visit Balblair and Pulteney. It takes 6 hours to drive to Pulteney so this can be a 4-day trip. On a trip to our distilleries, the teams will have sampled 300 to 600 casks for the single malts. I will nose them and we will agree which casks to use.
What is it that you enjoy the most about the industry?
Being able to share my knowledge with customers and colleagues, to develop their appreciation of Scotch Whisky production.
What inspires you each day?
I enjoy the challenges of ensuring our products remain at optimum quality. Not to mention the opportunity to add quality and value in everything I do in my role.
Tells us something we might not know?
• I’m the only Master Blender and Master Brewer in the industry.
• Also the tallest, at 6 feet 5 inches, almost 2 metres!
• I was Keeper of the Quaich Spring 2006.
Have you got a favourite whisky?
That’s a hard one, I have so many whiskies ones to choose from. I simply can’t pick just one!
I would like to thank Stuart for taking time out of his day to talk and let us all know a little more about his day.. I’m sure you will all agree this is another great insight into a master blender and the industry as a whole…