Old Bushmills Distillery 'delighted' as first cooper in 30 years graduates
Fresh life has been breathed into the age-old craft of barrel making in Ireland with the graduation of the first qualified cooper in more than 30 years.
Chris Kane from Co Antrim is a fourth-generation cooper, entering the trade plied by his great-grandfather, grandfather and father.
His qualification from the National Cooperage Federation comes after four years of training in the ancient art, using the same tools wielded by great-grandfather Jimmy Kane more than 80 years ago.
Mr Kane, like the three generations of his family before him, coopers whiskey casks at the Old Bushmills Distillery in north Antrim.
He first tried the craft at the age of nine at home with his father, Alastair. They now work side-by-side at the distillery's cooperage.
"It might not be an obvious career choice but coopering has been a part of my life since I was a young guy," he said.
"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."
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."