I learned something very interesting this week; one of those things that you probably should have known forever and are a little embarrassed to admit to people that the penny has just dropped. Here it is….wait for it…..WHISKY GETS ITS COLOUR FROM OAK!!  All you distillery visitors out there are all now shaking your heads and tut-tutting. “Is this guy as thick two short planks? Even my ingrowing toenail knows that whisky gets its colour from the oak barrels in which it is aged!”

Well, sorry, I didn’t know this. Probably because I have never thought about the issue – presuming the wonderful warm golden Glenfiddich in my glass derived its colour from the barley. How wrong I was. Now that this revelation was brought upon me by Martin Clunes (a well known British actor) in a TV program on the Scottish Isles – I have been doing a little more research into this…and I am now armed with a list of further pointless facts:

– Did you know that the oak barrels absorb up to 2% of the clear distilled liquid that goes into the barrels to be aged?

– Whisky cannot be called whisky until it has been aged in barrels for at least 3 years.

– Finally, I have learned through years of practice that it only takes a good chat with a mate to polish off a good portion of a bottle of Talisker, or Ardbeg, or Macallan. (All you need to know on this is here: http://www.scotch-whisky.org.uk/swa/CCC_FirstPage.jsp)

Why this fascination with whisky suddenly? The oak connection is obvious – but what is perhaps more interesting is that I have been in the process of making a pair of wall-hanging whisky cabinets as a speculative piece. The cabinets are nearing completion and will be on display at the Bovey Tracey Contemporary Craft Fair (www.craftsatboveytracey.co.uk)  from 5-7th June 2009 in South Devon.

The cabinets were inspired initially by a trip to the Guinness brewery (well worth a visit:http://www.guinness-storehouse.com/en/Index.aspx)  in Dublin for my 30th birthday. There was a fascinating exhibit on the roll of the “cooperers” who made all the millions of barrels for the freshly brewed guinness by hand. A rolling video from the early 20th century showed these guys in action and it was awe inspiring. Not only did they have forearms like Popeye but they also could make a barrel in about half and hour, measuring everything up by eye and not using any glue. Astonishing to watch.  See this for a modern day equivalent:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PS4PHgy9oJ4&feature=related

I had always been interested in “coopering” as a furniture-making technique, as I had used it on my “His’n’Hers” mirrors and jewellery boxes: http://www.hendel-blackford.com/gift-gallery.htm

Now I was duly inspired to create a whisky themed piece of furniture – using the art of coopering. The doors of each cabinet have therefore been made in solid oak. Each door consists of 7 lengths of timber, with the edges all planed at a set angle – this when glued together, they form a beautiful, sweeping curve. The cabinets are a handed pair and the curve flows through both doors. They are entirely out of oak – with the exception of the polished glass shelves and the brass fittings…and I am chuffed to bits with how they have turned out.

Come and see them at my stand at the Contemporary Craft Fair, Stand 97!!

Artist at work!

Artist at work!