Roll out the barrels

Not everyone will know this but, Speyside, as well as being famous for its sculptor *ahem*, has also a pretty good reputation for its Scotch malt whisky. In fact, with around sixty working distilleries, it has nearly as many as the rest of Scotland combined.

One of my closest neighbours is Glenfarclas (just about a mile away) but within sniffing distance are such famous names as Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, Macallan, Balvenie, Cragganmore, Cardhu, Knockando, Aberlour… But (almost as important for me) we have a cooperage still making and servicing whisky barrels in the traditional way.

Whisky is matured in either port barrels or bourbon barrels. It i from these that whisky gets its colour. The barrels can be used three or four times before they are discarded. I’ve been able to use some of the individual staves before for my tree carvings, for instance, as well as a special commission for an iPhone docking station.

Whisky barrel stave iphone dock Whisky barrel stave iphone dock




But I recently got my hands on a barrel and some barrel ‘tops’ and tried some new ideas with them.

The barrels are made from either American or French oak and, once they have been cleaned and sanded, the timber has a lovely character. In some cases it comes up a lovely salmony pink colour.

I cleaned up one barrel and turned it into a post box to save the legs of my posties! As it is oak, it has quite a tight grain and can take detailed carving such as lettering. I carved my surname on the face and built an opening flap at the back for retrieving the post and for larger items.

These could have family or house names carved into the face.

Hand-carved whisky barrel post box




One of the barrel tops has become a new ‘pavilion-style’ clock for the gable end of my workshop. The wood has a lovely colour to it in this example. Once again, I have chosen to hand carve some lettering onto the face of the clock. Names and/or house names would work well here too or maybe some whisky-related relief carving? Perhaps I could get the distilleries of Speyside to commission their own post boxes and clocks?