21 Feb The Five Traits of a Cooper
Meet Michael Jamieson
He’s spent 44 years making the wooden casks and washbacks that lovingly store Glenturret whisky. We have something special coming soon so we thought we’d tell you a little more about the ‘Five Traits of a Cooper’.
It’s not just Glenturret whisky that is still crafted using traditional tools and techniques. The tools cooper Michael Jamieson used within the cooperage are all traditional tools that date way back to when the Clyde Cooperage first opened in late 1890’s. From a topping plane, jointer, chive to a jigger…who knows what does what!?
Michael joined Clyde Cooperage as an apprentice aged 15 in 1971. It’s a skill that takes many years to craft, with a 5-year long apprenticeship to hone their talents of repairing barrels and crafting washbacks by hand. For Michael, his skills as a cooper were passed down from his father. Working alongside each other in the same cooperage, his father helped nurture his craftsmanship up until his retirement.
The job of a cooper is not an easy one, it’s a strenuous and demanding job that requires a lot of physical strength to bound the wood together with just metal hoops. The large wooden washbacks are built completely by hand, requiring a lot of skill to manoeuvre and slot into place. “Despite the hard graft, the end result is really quite impressive,” says Michael.
There’s a whole lot of tradition in coopering, from the traditional tools to the old-aged casks that are lovingly repaired for the next lot of liquid gold. But one tradition still going strong in the cooperage is the unique pass-out tradition. Newly qualified apprentices are officially initiated as a cooper with a slightly messy roll about in one of their creations. “Oh yes, that’s an important part of the passing out,” laughed Michael, remembering his own experiences.
“Coopers are a rough and tough bunch” says Michael. They’re all passionate and dedicated craftsmen who take pride in their work. After 44 years in the whisky industry, Michael has hung up his tools and retired to the home of whisky, Speyside, where he can tell tales of his time as a cooper over a wee dram or two. “I’ll certainly miss the banter” he says. “It was good fun, really rewarding and I’ll miss getting out and about visiting lots of distilleries and meeting people.”
We think he’s earned his retirement, but not before one last surprise from Glenturret…
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