I feel that so many traditional handicrafts qualify as art, and one of these still has to be barrel-making – the cooper’s art. When it comes to whisky, the type of barrel used and what was previously stored in the barrel make up a good portion of the art of the spirit.
A few years ago, Glenfiddich commissioned Barrel Art from Johnson Banks, and I liked some of the results. All are quite clearly made from whisky barrels.
And then there’s this wood-less piece:
Here are some more recognizable barrels from a set commissioned by Brown-Forman Travel Retailer:
“Examples of a cooper’s work include but are not limited to casks, barrels, buckets, tubs, butter churns, hogsheads, firkins, tierces, rundlets, puncheons, pipes, tuns, butts, pins and breakers.
“A cask is any piece of cooperage containing a bouge, bilge, or bulge in the middle of the container. A barrel is a type of cask, so the terms “barrel-maker” and “barrel-making” only refer to one aspect of a cooper’s work.”
These days, coopers are mainly called upon to make barrels for wine or spirits, and most barrels are no longer produced by hand.
Many years ago, I found an old example of a cooper’s work in Germany, a well-used, hand-made wooden washing tub that had been dismantled. It’s not quite whisky barrel art, but I made a small shuttered window in a door that had been permanently bricked up in the old stone tower of our house.
The interior of the barrel window.
A video on barrel-making: