There are many things that are great about being the only sole Female running an Irish Whiskey company in the world. One of them is definitely not the fact that I am not strong enough to upend a quarter tonne cask full of whiskey
on my own. I know this because I have tried. I discovered a few leaks on the heads of our whiskey casks this week. This is dreadful news. Every drip out of the cask and into the earth floor of our Rackhouse is $$$$$$$$$$$$$ for the Revenue and lost income in a few years for us. It takes the phrase “Liquid Gold” to a whole new level.
The casks are leaking on the head side for a very particular reason. Our grain and malt whiskey spirit went into cask in April. I expected to have them in the Rackhouse within weeks, I did not, it took several months to finalise all the admin and licensing. In those months the casks were stored on pallets vertically. When filling a cask it is not filled totally full, you leave a little breathing room literally so the whiskey inside can expand and contract. This means that when you upend a cask and put it on a pallet you leave a space in the barrel. The head on top of the barrel does not have any liquid touching it and it starts to dry out.
A cardinal rule when managing casks is that you cannot let them dry out, they have to stay wet or they leak. This is why the heads of my casks are leaking. This is also another reason I am racking not palletising my casks.
You cannot very easily re-use a cask that has been palletised because the head has most likely dried out, you will need to replace the head. To do this this you need a cooper and a cooperage. Can I remind you there are FOUR Master coopers working on the Island of Ireland, I’m working with one of them…All the coopers were let go from multinationals in Ireland in the 90’s. All the casks that the big brands are made in are disgorged and then sold onto brokers outside of Ireland and elsewhere. A little trade secret there for you….. You should in reality get about 20 years use out of each first fill ex-bourbon cask (like ours) if its good quality in the first place, which ours are, but you have to invest in the craftsmanship of a Cooper, which I am…
I’m working on our long term Wood Management Program, which involves all of this and more. However, my short term, like this week… wood program involves fixing all the GODDAMN heads of my leaky casks. Again, for this you need a cooper, luckily I have one he’s coming on Thursday and tomorrow I have some labour (including my Dad…) on site to help me upend any other casks that have sprung a leak.