Bushmills hails Ireland’s first new cooper in 30 years
Bushmills Irish Whiskey apprentice Chris Kane has become the first person in Ireland to graduate as a cooper in more than 30 years – and is the fourth generation of his family to cooper casks for the distillery.
The family – from the village of Bushmills – have racked up a total of 140 years of family service at the brand’s Old Bushmills Distillery.
Kane’s great grandfather, Jimmy Kane, began coopering in 1935, and was followed by his grandfather, Johnny Kane, in 1951.
He began coopering at home at the age of nine with his father, Alastair, whom he now works alongside in the distillery’s cooperage.
Kane said: “It might not be an obvious career choice but coopering has been a part of my life since I was a young guy.
“When the apprenticeship opportunity came up four years ago, I left what was probably deemed a good ‘sensible’ job to follow what has always been my real passion.
“The wood, barrels, tools and craft, along with the opportunity to work with my dad each day, have given me the chance to contribute to the Bushmills Irish Whiskey story – it’s a dream job!”
Though mastering the skill of coopering usually takes 5 years, Kane qualified within four using the same tools that his grandfather did more than 80 years ago.
Helen Mulholland, master blender of Bushmills Irish Whiskey, said: “We are delighted to share in Chris’s success as he becomes a fully-fledged cooper today.
“His family has been an integral part of Bushmills’s legacy for the past 140 years. He is a true artist, born to his craft, as the skill and attention that is required to cooper is nothing short of spectacular.
“Coopering is fundamental to our Irish Whiskey making process to ensure we produce the same premium quality whiskey that we began making 400 years ago.
“With up to 80% of the character of our whiskey coming from the cask, our coopers are true guardians of Bushmills Irish Whiskey.”