Chris Mercer

Coopering: An enviable skill

By: Chris Mercer - 28 November 2011 15:46

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Maybe it's because I stopped being able to 'make things' once I'd grown out of Lego, but I've always had a lot of respect for coopers.

During my years as a drink journalist, I've had a few opportunities to see coopers at work, for example at the Speyside Cooperage. I find it fascinating, partly because I would be so bad at it. The only time I came close to attempting it, I ended up as one part of a duo that failed to even get a few staves to stand upright in a barrel shape. 

It's also fascinating because it's one of those skills that can hardly have changed a great deal down the years.

Diageo's new Cambus cooperage, which opened today (28 November), marks a new era in coopering, making greater use of technology to reduce some of the worst heavy lifting.

A few purists are probably raising their eyebrows at such a development, but it makes sense. Impressive as it is, there are quite a few stories of long-term injuries related to the intensity of the manual labour involved in coopering.

The core skill involved, meanwhile, will continue. If you get the chance, go and take a look for yourself.

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