Whisky Magazine Issue 34
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Robin Shields isn't from Islay. He's not Scottish. And he doesn't have a distillery background. But as Martine Nouet finds out, he's up for the challenge of protecting the reputation of Laphroaig
Robin Shields, Laphroaig's new distillery manager faces more than a challenge: He's taking over from living legend Iain Henderson, discovering a brand-new job after 25 years in the brewing industry, and shifting from a mainland urban way of life to an island community.
All challenging issues that Robin welcomes with a serene and determined smile, as if nothing could shake this rock of a man.
With a beer brewer's background, Yorkshire-born Robin Shields has shifted to distilling at one of the most emblematic of Scottish distilleries.
The new Laphroaig distillery manager took up his new position just a few weeks ago, before the Islay Whisky Festival kicked off.
I met him right after his baptism of fire – on Laphroaig Day – the last day of the festival. We were both exhausted and did not even think of invigorating ourselves with a dram of Laphroaig.
Instead we stuck to tea and biscuits, whilst chatting in the distillery manager ‘s office. The whole place was silent.
Quite a change from the bustling morning with visitors queuing for tours and two fully booked masterclasses.
”When I came to Laphroaig for a week in February, just before starting six weeks training at the Speyside distilleries of Allied Domecq,” Robin remembers, ”I was sitting there with a dram. And I saw two grey seals popping their head out of the water. I thought : I am at work and I can enjoy this beauty. I love my new life.”
This is a new life that was meant to be. When Robin Shields was ...