PRESS RELEASE28 Nov 2011
Royal seal of approval for pioneering new cooperageDownload file
£10million Cambus Cooperage brings ancient craft into 21st Century
His Royal Highness, The Earl of Wessex, officially opened the first new cooperage to be built in Scotland for decades, which uniquely blends craft and innovation to transform the centuries-old trade.
The new Diageo Cambus Cooperage near Alloa has been custom designed in close co-operation with the company’s coopers, drawing on generations of skill, craft and experience and combining it with the state-of-the-art British engineering - never before used in a cooperage - to dramatically improve the working lives of the coopers.
HRH toured the new cooperage and met the men whose jobs it is to craft around 250,000 casks each year - all of which will be used to mature Scotch whisky for Diageo’s world leading brands, such as Johnnie Walker, Bell’s and J&B Rare.
As well as meeting a range of time-served coopers, including some with decades of experience in the trade, HRH met with a Diageo’s apprentice coopers who are now able to hone their skills in a custom-built coopering school within the new cooperage.
HRH, The Earl of Wessex, has a long-standing interest in coopering and is an Honorary Member of the Incorporation of Coopers. He has shown particularly strong support for coopering apprentices and has even lent his name to the Incorporation’s annual Earl of Wessex Awards for Cooperage.
HRH was joined on the tour of Cambus by the Lord Lieutenant of Clackmannanshire, the Rt Hon George Reid, who also has strong links to the industry, with his great-grandfather serving a coopering apprenticeship at Glenochil Distillery in Menstrie where he remained all his working life.
Tom Duncan, a manager at Cambus was one of the team tasked with leading the new cooperage project and he guided HRH and the Lord Lieutenant on the tour.
He said: “It is a great honour for everyone at Cambus to have The Earl of Wessex officially open the cooperage, particularly as he has been such a strong supporter of our industry over the years.”
He also explained the ethos behind the cooperage: “It’s not often you get to start with a blank sheet of paper and design something like this from scratch. We worked closely with our coopers to maximise the craft skills which are the core of the job, while using smart technology to minimise the bending and heavy-lifting involved. It’s that blend of craft and innovation which makes this different from any cooperage I’ve ever seen.”
To achieve this, the Diageo team turned to Leicester-based engineering firm CI Logistics, which works primarily in the automotive industry, and together they custom-designed a series of mechanical conveyors to move the casks – which weigh up to 85kg when empty - around the cooperage between the hand-craft elements of the process. The result is the world’s most innovative cooperage.
Calum Bruce, 51, one of Diageo’s longest serving coopers with 35-years service, having started in the trade at age 16, explained the difference the new ways of working had made to the coopers.
He said: “A lot has changed over the last 35 years, but the basic skills have stayed the same. But Cambus is something different altogether. We still use the same skills to do the same job, but the difference is the machines now do a lot of the heavy lifting so we don’t have to spend time and effort on hard labour and we can focus on the skilled part of the job. That is what has really transformed the way we work.”
Brian Law, one of eight apprentices currently learning their trade on Diageo’s four-year apprentice scheme, also welcomed the investment the company has made in the future of the trade. He said: “It is a really exciting time to be learning my trade as a cooper. At Cambus, Diageo has an investment in the future of coopering and that’s also an investment in the futures of all the guys who work here.”
Richard Bedford, Diageo’s grain distilling director, who was responsible for the Cambus Cooperage project, said the increase in demand for Diageo’s world-leading Scotch whisky brands meant the new cooperage was a key part of the company’s overall investment programme for growing its production capacity in Scotland.
He said: “The demand for Scotch whisky is growing around the world, particularly in the emerging markets of Asia and Latin America. To meet that increasing demand Diageo is investing in growing Scotch whisky production capacity across Scotland. That means we need more casks than ever before, so the new Cambus Cooperage is a key part of the future success of our Scotch whisky brands.”