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In his 34 years as an officer of H.M. Customs and Excise, as it was then known, Ian Milne spent 14 years working in distilleries. Here, in his own words, he recalls what it was like to work in a role at the heart of the industry

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eing an exciseman and working in a whisky distillery was a wonderful life. It’s one that I had always planned on ever since I was a young lad and used

to visit my grandfather who lived next to the Glenugie distillery near Peterhead. I used to love playing there, pushing the empty casks around and especially sneaking into the maltings, which had that wonderful smell of malted barley. I was aware of the exciseman who lived

at the distillery in his own house. I could see how he was a much-respected member of the community – and I knew that was the life for me. I was appointed to Customs and Excise

in January 1966, as an unattached officer, but it was some time before I actually saw a distillery. As an unattached officer, I could be


posted anywhere in the UK where work was needed. I spent five years working on a wide range of roles: from Purchase Tax in London to customs duty on the Newcastle docks. However, in June 1967, I was delighted to get my

first taste of working at a distillery, even if it was only relief work in Speyside for five months. I was initially based in Keith and travelled between three distilleries: three days at Glentauchers, two days at Aultmore and the Saturday morning at Strathisla. The work involved checking spirit charges

and overseeing the filling and transportation of casks. After two months in Keith, I moved to nearby Dufftown where I was employed at most of the distilleries on relief work for a further three months. In 1972, I finally got a permanent position

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