Industry News

The Balvenie Announces Winner of the American Craft Council Rare Craft Fellowship Award

The American Craft Council along with The Balvenie, a unique range of handcrafted single malt Scotch whiskies, has announced Douglas Brooks, Vermont Boat Builder, as the winner of the American Craft Council Rare Craft Fellowship Award in association with The Balvenie at an exclusive luncheon at Thomas Keller’s Per Se in New York City.

 photos courtesy of Fine Young Man

The American Craft Council Rare Craft Fellowship Award in association with The Balvenie recognizes one winner and four finalists who are awarded annually in recognition and support of contributions to the maintenance and revival of traditional or rare crafts in America. To be considered for the Fellowship, individuals must demonstrate a contribution to the preservation of traditional and rare craft techniques, processes, or products and meet a quality criterion. Hundreds were vetted and five were selected as finalists with Douglas Brooks honored as the 2014 Fellow. Brooks will receive an exclusive trip to Scotland and a $10,000 endowment to go towards materials and continuing his craft. The four additional finalists received a $5,000 endowment and a trip to New York City where they showcased their work at the awards luncheon.


The once-in-a-lifetime trip to Scotland awarded to Brooks will provide the Fellow with an opportunity to spend time at the legendary distillery, apprenticing under a local craftsman of his choosing. The two-week Fellowship will feature a week at the historic Balvenie distillery, where Brooks will learn more about the traditional crafts of whisky making while also receiving the rare opportunity to work with legendary malt master David Stewart, who was part of the jury that selected the finalists and awarded Brooks with this unique opportunity.

Based in Vermont, Brooks began constructing boats in 1980 as a college student in the Williams-Mystic Maritime Studies Program at Mystic Seaport Museum. Ten years later, he made his first trip to Japan to study traditional boatbuilding techniques, methods of which he strives to preserve. Today, he continues to make boats for recreation and museum use, promoting awareness of traditional techniques.       


Information on the additional four finalists can be found below:


  • Scott Baxendale |  Luthier   Athens, Georgia —Scott Baxendale began building custom guitars in 1974. Since then, he has created instruments for the world’s top musicians, restored vintage guitars for museums and private collections. His skills extend to teaching the craft of lutherie to a new a generation at his shop, Baxendale Guitar, which he opened in Athens in 2013.
  • Stephen Bilenky | Bicycle Builder Philadelphia, Pennsylvania —Stephen Bilenky has been working with bicycles for 44 years and opened his shop, Bilenky Cycle Works, in 1983. He has received widespread acclaim for his custom bikes and is the man behind the annual Philly Bike Expo.
  • Ubaldo Vitali | Silversmith Newark, New Jersey —As a fourth-generation silversmith, Ubaldo Vitali has gained extensive knowledge in both historic and modern metalworking techniques. He was born and raised in Italy and moved to the US in 1967. Vitali creates new works using historic techniques, restores old metalwork, and promotes the preservation of historic collections.
  • Ina Grau | Shoemakers Minneapolis, Minnesota—Luisa Fernanda Garcia-Gomez and Crystal Quinn started the Ina Grau shoe company in 2011 with their limited edition lines. The pair’s unique shoes emphasize traditional techniques, a blend of Columbian and American styles, which are handmade in both countries.


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