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Issue 73 - “It's a very physical job. You're using shoulders, forearms and your back”

Whisky Magazine Issue 73
July 2008


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“It's a very physical job. You're using shoulders, forearms and your back”

Ian Wisniewski talks with Michael Jamieson,the longest serving cooper at The Edrington Group's Clyde Cooperage.

IAN How did you get into the profession ?

MICHAEL I followed my dad into it, my brother was a cooper as well, I left school on a Friday and the following Tuesday I started at the cooperage.

IAN Did you have any experience of carpentry ?

MICHAEL No, just wood work classes from school, I was always interested in wood and still am to this day.

IAN How long was your apprenticeship ?

MICHAEL Five years. I had a first class teacher, I learned a lot from him.

IAN How long have you now been working as a cooper ?

MICHAEL Since 1971, and for the past 15 years I've been a test cooper which is all about quality control, checking for any faults or defects. We buy a lot of casks in from Spain, a lot of these are tested for tightness and cracks, and then they go straight back out of the door, anything we repair goes through the shop.

Over the years I've been lucky enough to be involved in quite a few jobs, from making casks to selecting wood for, and building washbacks.

IAN Would you start building washbacks in the workshop ?

MICHAEL Yes, it starts with the wood selection, Douglas fir, which comes from the western coast of the United States or Canada, and for one washback it usually takes 3-4 weeks to machine it, cut the staves, and then a week to build it on site.

Everything is tied down to the final fitting date.

To hoop one up could take maybe a day.

IAN Presumably you have to tie in with the silent season at a distillery ?

MICHAEL Oh yes, everything's about timing, you've ...

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