In setting out to present the various aspects of distinctive living on the Maltese Islands in the second edition of the property portfolio published annually, Malta Sotheby’s International Realty speaks to Sandy Hyslop, Ballantine’s 5th Master Blender, about how to combine whisky and distinctive living.
What are the essential elements for a truly distinctive whisky?
A truly distinctive whisky will leave a lasting memory. The elegant signature style of Ballantine’s is balanced, soft, sweet and incredibly complex. Ballantine’s fans have told us that the brand is authentic and has flair and style. One of the secrets of Ballantine’s success is the continuity of the blend. It is my job to make absolutely sure that the blend stays true to its family style year after year so our customers can have the utmost confidence that they will experience the same fantastic flavour every time they open a bottle of Ballantine’s.
What are your recommended food and whisky pairings?
I often add a good measure of water to my whisky to help change the dynamic of the flavours as well as the temperature, which can really complement lighter foods such as salmon. American oak, which is used to age our whiskies, imparts a predominantly vanilla spice so a dish with vanilla flavours will really work as a pairing, too.
What were your proudest moments during your whisky career?
As part of my development, in 1992 while working as a Quality Controller in Dundee, I was invited to spend one day a week with Jack Goudy, the legendary former Master Blender of Ballantine’s. I spent more and more time learning from Jack and, after this period of apprenticeship, I was appointed Blender at the Ballantine’s Headquarters in Dumbarton. Ballantine’s has only ever had five Master Blenders in its 150 year history which has given all of the Ballantine’s whiskies the advantage of great expertise handed down through the generations of Master Blenders. It’s a very special legacy to be a part of and I’m humbled by that every day.
How does Sandy Hyslop leave an impression as a global icon?
As only the fifth Master Blender in Ballantine’s 150 year history, it is my job to ensure that the whisky we produce stays true to George Ballantine’s original vision. Ballantine’s is all about a passion for blending, laying down excellent whisky for the future and making sure that the dedication to excellence is carried forward from one master blender to the next. I won’t see the 30 or 40 year blends in my own lifetime. But I will make sure it has the potential to be the best blend in the world.
When you’re making a distinctive blend, what goes through your head while surrounded by the variety of malts?
Working in the whisky industry since 1983 allows me to identify a lot of different flavours on the nose which is key to making a distinctive blended Scotch whisky. Very early in my career I started nosing samples regularly but also spent time in all areas of the whisky making process to increase my knowledge across the business. To blend whisky you must have a very acute sense of smell to identify all the differences between the malt and grain whiskies but almost as important is having an extensive memory for flavours. The skill of the blender is to ensure that the selection of malts and grains enhances and compliments their respective flavours, rather than masks them.
Is a Blending Masterclass held in Malta on the horizon for you?
There is nothing planned at the moment but if the opportunity came along I would love to come to Malta and spread the word on the fantastic quality of the Ballantine’s range of whiskies. It is always interesting to visit other countries and experience how they enjoy our wonderful whisky.
This interview featured in the second edition of Malta Sotheby’s International Realty’s property portfolio, featuring a collection of some of the finest properties represented by the luxury real estate brand locally along with interesting content related to a distinctive lifestyle. Subscribe for a free digital and physical copy of the portfolio here. For more information, kindly direct your request to firstname.lastname@example.org.