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A Cooper’s Mastery – The Creation of our Silent Distillery Collection Chapter 5 Casks

For a whiskey to be unique, revered and precious as our Silent Distillery Collection Chapter 5 offering, the cask in which the liquid is poured, housed and observed must be of exceptional quality—and through the talent and mastery of the coopers at Midleton Distillery, this level of expert craftsmanship is not only achieved, but always surpassed. The wood is at the heart of the whiskey, and the Cooper is at the heart of how this wood is chosen and perfected.

For hundreds of thousands of years, wood has helped shape the forever unfolding story of humankind. It’s fuelled fires that gave warmth and light, offered shelter and comfort, cooked food and made water pure, and for Midleton Very Rare it has helped our Master Distillers to age and blend the oldest ever collection of Irish whiskey. Wooden casks are at the heart of each collection of Midleton Very Rare, each with its own unique character, defined by its history and liberated in each new release including the penultimate offering of our Silent Distillery Collection, Chapter 5.

Coopering is a trade and a skill that has been passed down through generations. From the use of the spoke shave, also known as the swift, the lever or dog, the horse, the draw knife, the compass, the croze, the axe, the anvil and the adze—all tools used by cooper’s, whose specific use and speciality has been passed down through lineages of coopers—and no one knows them better than Ger Buckley, Master Cooper at Midleton Very Rare.

Ger Buckley’s father Dominic, his grandfather Eugene and his uncle Donal all worked at the old Midleton Distillery, and following in their footsteps Ger has been working with casks for most of his life. Since the days of the Roman Empire, little has changed about the skill of a cooper, making it an age-old skill that truly benefits from tutelage of coopers that have come before—and Ger Buckley is part of a family legacy that he not only cherishes, but one which he keeps alive every day. The tools Ger wields have been passed down through the generations, just like the knowledge he has, these tools are as precious and irreplaceable as the cooper’s art itself; an art which together with the skills of our Master Distiller Kevin O’ Gorman and his esteemed predecessors has weaved a magic all of its own for 200 years.

As old as the craft of coopering is the cooper’s mark, unique to each cask and maker, the mark is not only a signature but also a stamp of quality. Given the Buckley’s celebrated history and their age-old connection with the tradition of coopering at the old and new Midleton Distilleries, the Buckley mark is the numeral 1. This mark was chosen by Ger’s grandfather back in 1924 and is a much-prized heirloom in the Buckley family, and still proudly used to this date. The numeral 1 used by Ger symbolises his passion and the pride he takes in his work and is a dedication to his families extraordinary heritage. Just as Buckley’s grandfather, father and uncle would have had a special connection to the Master Distiller of their time, Ger Buckley has forged great connections with the Master Distillers of Midleton Very Rare, like Kevin O’Gorman, who has put his talent, craftsmanship and name to this truly special Silent Distillery Collection Chapter 5 release.

The balance of skills, craft, art and science that exists between the cooper and the distiller is a fascinating relationship—and forming a deep connection not only to each other but the liquid you are creating is important. For the penultimate release of our Silent Distillery Collection, Chapter 5, this notable liquid demanded a final nurturing in an equally notable cask. Trusted with its selection, Master Distiller Kevin O’Gorman chose an ex-bourbon cask originally imported from the United States. Made from American oak, it was repaired by current Master Cooper Ger Buckley’s father in the mid-1970s and to this day proudly bears the Buckley mark—that revered number 1. To ensure the appropriate taste, balance, nose and aromas, the Master Distiller must deeply understand how a cask can have the final say on a liquid and how a whiskey can be brought to life by all this wood contains. This exceptionally rare liquid opens with delicate hints of fruit, unveiling layers of peach, apricot, and dates with nuances of sugar-glazed almonds and antique wood.

Next, a vibrant medley of stone and citrus fruits bursts forth, enrobing the senses in a silk-like texture. Slowly, the oak’s tannins emerge, imparting notes of herbal tea and dark chocolate, harmoniously balanced by the spices of anise and ginger. With each passing moment, the sweetness of salted caramel and toffee apple come to the fore, culminating in a finish that resonates with decades of ageing, where the pot still spices and fruits reign supreme as the oak recedes into the background. This whiskey is not only a symbol of how the cooper and distiller must share a passion for their work and the whiskey they are creating together, like two links in a chain, but also of how this combination of art and science is an age-old skill that requires persevere, patience and the perfect balance of it all.