HANDCRAFTED UNIQUE CASKS
So much of the whiskey flavor comes from the casks. Nephin are the only Irish distillery to craft their own.
Nephin Whiskey are making whiskey with an obsessive focus on the quality of ingredients and every small detail of the way it is made and are equally discerning when it comes to what the spirit will be matured in. Each Nephin cask is crafted by hand by our Master Cooper from carefully sourced wood, and exclusively traditional, natural methods such as using rush grass for sealing.
In this video Master Cooper, John Neilly is constructing and charring a 20 gallon oak cask. You'll notice the rushes being layered between the joints on the head.
When Irish whiskey was first made America had yet to be discovered, so it's safe to say that Irish distilleries weren't maturing their spirits in ex-Bourbon casks shipped in from the US. The history of casks suggests wine, port, brandy and sherry casks from the European continent would have been the primary materials used. Nephin source these original materials and up-cycle, refurbish and make unique new casks from these building blocks.
European Oak is much darker than it's American equivalent and is slower growing, so the rings tend to be much tighter together. Ex-bourbon casks made from American oak are cheaper than their European counterparts - partly because the oak is faster growing and therefore cheaper but also largely due to the fact that bourbon producers don't reuse casks. Therefore whiskey distilleries often mature in ex-bourbon, which especially make sense for blended whiskey and over 90% of Irish whiskey is aged in ex-bourbon barrels.
Distilleries try to buy ex-bourbon casks in good condition so that they can be filled immediately with spirit without the need for refurbishment, re-charring or repair. They can then cut costs by not having to employ the services of a cooper. The multinationals have been investing in machinery and even advanced robotics in order to make perfectly standardized barrels without the need for any skilled craftsmen.
Nephin Whiskey are dedicated to passing the dying art of cooperage onto the next generation and are starting to apprentice young coopers under the tutorage of our Master Cooper. Nephin believe cooperage to be an art form worth preserving and that unique individuals casks each with their own imperfections are what make great whiskey such a deeply complex spirit.
To find out more about the ancient art of coopering and see it in action, why not come visit the Nephin Cooperage.