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A paper seal used to be placed inside the distillery padlocks – so excisemen could see if the locks had been tampered with

The new generation

Second-generation excise officer – and Society member – Rod Cole says he and his colleagues still have a real passion for working with the whisky industry. He said: “There is still a glamour attached to working with Scotch whisky. A distillery is still a place of great

mystique for us. Although we do not often visit a distillery, when we do, we still enjoy

in the drinks business as UK brand ambassador for Glenfiddich – it must be in his blood! The house was lovely in the summer but, with its high ceilings and coal fires, it was bitterly cold in the winter, so I had to pay to have gas fires installed. When I left Cameronbridge in 1979, I became

the “fixed officer” at Glentauchers – returning to the distillery I had first worked at back in the late 60s. However, I was aware of the changes in the

wind during the early 1980s. The Thatcher government was reducing numbers in the civil service and I saw that our own people were not being replaced when they retired. So when the officer at Knockdhu retired, I had

to cover that distillery as well. I’d be at Knockdhu at 7am for the spirit charge and then start overseeing the cask filling until the Revenue assistant arrived. I would then leave for Glentauchers to do the same – then, at lunchtime, we swapped over. I loved working at Knockdhu as it was a small

distillery and everyone got on really well together, from the manager right down to the warehouse. There was a great friendly atmosphere there. One of the saddest days of my career was

in April 1983 when Knockdhu, the first-ever malt distillery operated by The Distillers Company [a leading Scottish drinks company, later part of United Distillers and now Diageo], ceased production and the staff were either paid off or re-located, including me. Around 1984, there was a big change which

saw all Excise staff move into a central office in Keith. Things then gradually began to be scaled


down to such an extent that I was later transferred to Aberdeen to work in VAT [value added tax]. It was a very sad day on New Year’s Eve

1986 when I had to say goodbye to my life as an exciseman in Speyside. It was a wrench for me, as I knew that I was going to miss all those wonderful friendly people. Returning to Knockdhu for this article, I was

delighted to meet the current manager, Gordon Bruce, a charming man, and to find a similar diligent and contented workforce as existed in my time there, but now under the auspices of Inverhouse, who took over the premises in 1988. While they survive, the future of their wonderful product, anCnoc, is in very safe hands. My only regret is that I am no longer a part of it.

the sights, sounds and smells of a working distillery.” Rod said today’s excise officer has a more in-depth knowledge of not only regulations and legislation than in the past, but also a greater technical understanding of the alcohol production and distribution process. He said: “We act more like consultants to the drinks companies than policeman, updating them with new regulations and working in partnership to check and verify every stage of the whisky production process.” Rod’s life has straddled the old and modern world of the exciseman: “I grew up as a young boy in a number of distilleries across Scotland while my father was working as an excise officer on site and so I’m proud to follow him into the job.”

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