Kelsey McKechnie the balvenie apprentice malt master

Having the freedom to experiment and innovate is one of the most exciting parts of the role, says Kelsey

Name: Kelsey McKechnie

Age: 25

Job title: The Balvenie Apprentice Malt Master

Company & location: William Grant & Sons Distillers, Glasgow

Education: Bsc (Hons) University of the West of Scotland, MSc Heriot-Watt University 2018

“I have always enjoyed whisky. That aroma takes me back to my childhood”

Why did you decide to go for a career in food & drink? I have always enjoyed whisky and love the smell. That aroma takes me back to my childhood growing up in a family of whisky drinkers. After university I started working in the lab at our Lowlands distillery in Girvan carrying out the routine analysis on the spirit, and that led me to wanting to learn more about how to use my nose to analyse the spirit we were testing.

Explain your job to us in a sentence (or two): My role focuses on ensuring excellence and consistency in each and every bottle of The Balvenie, from nosing to taste, and also ensuring all casks mature in the intended way. I work closely with our Malt Master David Stewart MBE and the distillery team to achieve this.

What does a typical day look like for you? Typically nosing spirit samples – both new make (spirit that has just run off the stills and not matured) and mature spirit – to assess quality and consistency. On any given day we can nose 30-40 samples of whisky. We are also responsible for selecting and analysing each cask that will be blended to make our single malt.

What’s the best part about working for a food company? William Grant & Sons is a family-owned company, so there is a huge amount of passion and excitement around the products we produce. As a family-owned company we’re also offered an incredible amount of freedom to experiment and innovate, and this is a really exciting aspect of my role. I’m also learning an incredible amount from our malt master David Stewart, who has 56 years of knowledge in the whisky industry to pass down – that’s certainly one of the best parts of my job.

“People don’t always realise the amount of science and engineering that is involved in distilling”

And what’s the biggest misconception people have about working in food & drink? People don’t always realise the amount of science and engineering that is involved in distilling, maturing and blending the spirit to ensure each and every bottle of The Balvenie is perfect.

What advice would you give to other young people looking to get into the food & drink industry? If anyone was wishing to pursue a career in the drinks industry I would tell them to go for it. Every day is different and there are so many different opportunities in the whisky industry.

What’s your ultimate career dream? To continue to learn the science and art of producing The Balvenie whisky and working on new innovations in the years to come.

Interested in finding out more about food & drink careers? Check out The Grocer Jobs for the latest vacancies