Taking samples from the casks is one of the hardest jobs to do in a distillery. You don’t believe me? Well, at the beginning it didn’t seem to become that hard. Our job was to fill 125 bottles from 125 different casks. These bottles should be prepared to be sold in the Cadenhead’s whisky shop as unique Single Cask Whiskies. You can find these specialties in the famous cage in the shop.
If you ever have been in a dunnage warehouse you know that the casks are stacked one on the other. To get a sample from a cask that is lying in the first row is nearly impossible. Unlike the American Whisky industry the Scots do not drill holes into the barrels for direct sampling. The casks have to be opened on the top and then the samples are drawn by valinch or hosepipe. In the dunnage warehouse this means that casks have be repacked in order to reach them. Fortunately we had to get the samples from Bond No. 15 which is a racked warehouse.
But it should not be that easy :). First the more than 100 casks where spread all over the warehouse. A lot of them on the 5th or 6th floor. When looking for the right casks we found some really rare casks from other distilleries. They belong to Cadenhead’s, Scotlands oldest independent bottler, who belongs to Springbank. As an example see the Linlithgow from 1982. More than 30 years old Lowland from a distillery that was closed in 1983. For a short moment Freddy and I where thinking about the Scottish comedy film Angels’ Share by Ken Loach – very tempting 🙂
For Freddy and me the sampling was our last working activity at Springbank Whisky School. The next day we should have our examen. Needless to say that we all where very exited 🙂
At one point Campbeltown was the heartland of the whisky industry. With more than 30 distilleries Campbeltown was the whisky capitol. Frank McHardy took us on a walk through the town to visit the other distilleries – active ones and the ruins.
After our nice walk through Campbeltown we had our long-yearned-for warehouse tasting with Robert Scally a.k.a. Pob. This tasting was definetly one of our highlights at Springbank Whisky School. He selected some really nice casks. As a Whisky lover the warehouse of your favourite Whisky distillery is definitely the “Whisky Heaven”. We had the tasting on our last working day after end of work.
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One thing that we didn’t learn at Springbank Whisky School was cooperage. At Springbank they have a small cooperage where the casks are prepared before being filled from the vat. Loose hoops are pressed down with a pressurised machine – called the “Hoop Driver” – to prevent the casks from leaking.
I found a nice video on youtube about “making Whisky Casks” – but this is definetely not the tradition way :
Cask production nowadays