Greetings from Jerez in southern Spain, the home of the Sherry industry. I'm here with Edrington to learn about the importance of Sherry casks to the producers of Scotch whisky. Here's a look at some of the facts I have learned following a visit to Tevasa, one of the largest cooperages in the region.

  • The oak trees used for casks in Spain are grown in the north and north-west of the country
  • The minimum age of a tree that will be used for a cask is 75 years. The majority of trees are around 100 years old
  • It takes a minimum of three years from the felling of a tree for the wood to be turned into a usable cask
  • The cutting of wood for casks is known as the 'Quartier method'. Only 35% of the wood purchased by a cooperage is used for casks: The remainder is re-sold
  • The price of the wood constitutes 75% of a cooperage's costs
  • The time frame reads:
  •  - 0 - 6 months: Cut and left in forest
  •  - 6 - 12 months: Stored as logs
  •  - 12 - 18 months: Stored as staves (thick planks)
  •  - 18 - 21/24 months: Left to dry. At this point, the staves are transported down to the south of Spain
  •  - 21/24 -36/42 months: Left to dry
  •  - 42 - 50: Made into casks
  •  - 50 - 68/70: Sitting with Sherry or wine
  •  - 70 - 72: Prepare casks for Scotland
  • The cooperage will pay a Sherry company to rent wine to fill a cask, after which the cask will be sold to the end user, the Scotch producer. Alternatively, the cooperage will charge rent to the Scotch producer for storing a barrel, which would contain either Sherry or wine
  • The generic term is 'cask'. A 'barrel' is a type of cask, which contains 200 litres
  • The main types of casks used by the Scotch industry are hogsheads, butts and puncheons
  • A hogshead holds 250 litres, comprises 22 to 25 staves and measures 1m in height and 60cm in diameter
  • A butt holds 500 litres, comprises 30 to 32 staves and measures 1.3m in height and 70cm in diameter
  • A puncheon also holds 500 litres, but comprises 36 to 38 staves and measures 1.1m in height and 80cm in diameter
  • The final journey of a Spanish cask starts at the port of Cadiz before arriving ten to 12 days later in Grangemouth on the east coast of Scotland