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Issue 23 - Iain Henderson: a life less ordinary

Whisky Magazine Issue 23
June 2002


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Iain Henderson: a life less ordinary

Dave Broom talks to Laphroaig's legendary – and now sadly retired – Distillery Manager about the highs and lows of his career and life

There aren't many army deserters who end up being Manager of one of the world's most prestigious distilleries. It's a strange journey from drinking arrack and coke on 1,000 mile taxi journeys from Abidjan to Tehran to single malt festivals around the world. You can bet no-one will have a life like this again. It belongs to Iain Henderson.

“I wanted to drive a train,” he is saying recalling a boyhood in Fife. “What wee boy didn't?” What you soon realise with Iain is once he sets his mind to something he usually gets it. Though this was the dawn of the diesel age, he became an apprentice engineer at Burntisland aluminium works because it had three steam locomotives. However, the imminent arrival of his National Service meant his time with trains was a short one. Realising he could earn more money – and keep working with engines – he signed up with the Merchant Navy.

Trouble was he forgot to tell the recruitment board. “I left Fife on Friday,” he recalls with a laugh. “On the Monday the police were at my door to find out why I hadn't reported to Catterick camp. Technically I was a deserter who had run off to sea!”

It was a time which defined Iain's life. Every time he wavered over a return to the land, the sea called him back. Only when when he met his future wife Carol during another attempt to stay ashore did he decide enough was enough.

We're talking in the lounge at Laphroaig, the window looking directly over the bay, waves breaking on the reef, whit...

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