Whisky Magazine Issue 99
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Coopering apprentice Neil Ridley tries his hand at making a cask.
With the whisky industry placing greater emphasis on cask management, Diageo recently opened a brand new, £9m cooperage complex at Cambus in Clackmannanshire, combining modern technology with a traditional apprenticeship scheme.
We all know the importance of wood when it comes to maturing whisky, but just how important is the role of the cooper within the process? The art of coopering a cask from scratch seems a fairly antiquated approach in today's modern, forward thinking whisky business. But with increased production demands from the new and emerging markets, the industry is faced with a dilemma; repair and assemble more quality casks by hand in the traditional way, or find new ways to extend the life of existing casks, to meet the demand. It's an issue that potentially pits man against machine something that rankles with the traditional view of coopering being one of the last, great artisanal crafts left in the business.
Diageo's answer has been to approach the problem head on with an intriguing mix of tradition, underpinned by modern manufacturing practices. With the number of people entering the coopering trade falling and the profession heavily reliant on the skills of existing coopers, Diageo have undertaken the bold step in establishing a cooperage school as an integral part of their brand new, multi-million pound Cambus complex, which took 15 months to build, production of which was completed in late June this year.
Alan Haddon, project delivery manager at the c...