View Full Version : Watching The Coopers work At Kinsey and the many Products

dave ziegler
02-29-2008, 07:21
When I started working at Kinsey Distillery I was amazed at all the aging whiskeys there, every Warehouse was either full or being refilled. And after 2 1/2 years when I was bumped into the Warehouse Gangs one of the most amazing things was watching the Coopers tighten up barrels that were full and starting to leak a bit. They really knew their stuff and would always start at one end and work their way up and down with a coopers Hamer a flat head with a slot which they would hold on the metal hoop and then hit its other head it had two heads one sloted and the other round for hitting with a hand Sledge Hammer it was one of the Hardest jobs in the plant and it took allot of skill. When they went to the large barrels and stacked them they leaked allot more and it was really hard work tightening them up. I tried it once but just could not do it right but in honer of that one of the Coopers gave me an old Coopers hammer and a old hand Sledge so I am lucky to still have them with my collection. The slot is worn off the Cooper hamer but it is something I have had and treasured for almost 40 years. At the time I worked there they had a large coopers shop in Essington Pa and had many Coopers making and building Barrels all we did was knock them apart and after Publicker got permission to ship the used Bourbon barrels to Scotland for use in making Scotch we would knock them apart and bundle them to go over by one of the companys 10 ocean Liners. They would take them over and bring back imported bottled scotch and scotch in Barrels to bottle at Linfield for their many Blended Scotch brands. Some of them being
1. Inver House Green Plaid
2. Glen:Mavis
3. MacArthurs
4. King James
5.Glen Flagler Straight Scotch
And they had Import rights for
Pinwinnie Scotch & Martins VVO
Plus they had their own brands too. Those were exciting days in 1966 no more layoffs 600 people working there with the new Bottle house and Liquior's being made in the old Kinsey Bottling House built in 1892. Plus they imported much Vodka and Gin but Whiskey and Scotch were the very most important Products for us and Old Hickory Bourbon being our Biggest seller, Rittenhouse Rye next and Inver House Green Plaid our biggest selling Scotch. Also we imported Inver House Red Plaid which was bottled at first in Scotland. Those days are long gone just like all the great Jobs available in the old days before everything started leaving our Country. And till I die I will state that we WERE and YET are the Greatest Country in the world but we need to turn back soon! Start making things here again we can do it that I have NO DOUBT. One last thing when you look at my Pictures of the warehouses it hits you How very much aging Whiskey was there the largest amount in one place for a good while. There were the 15 Explosion proof warehouses plus 4 other wood and brick ones. I could never even make a guess at how many Barrels full were there but they knew we had master lists of Barrels as they would get numbers inked on them besides the date the barrel entered use and the date it was filled and what was in it! I am lucky enough to Have 1 Hundred twenty Gal Corn Whiskey Barrel head 1 Hundred twenty Gal Bourbon Barrel Head dated 1962 a 40 gal Scotch Malt Mash head and a 40 gal Whiskey Barrel head sadly no Rye head! One more thing the company had tanks that had Alcohol in them and we had tankage for up to 2 Million Gals there!

02-29-2008, 08:02
I know the American barrels were (and still are) rebuilt in the U.K. and enlarged in some fashion (extra staves added) to make a "hogshead" which is a unique size - larger again than the U.S. barrel and the standard ex-sherry cask that used to come in from Spain. I think the procedure is to clean and sometimes re-char the staves. So in effect for some scotch at least, it is aged in barrels that held different kinds of American whiskey. I think it is unlikely the coopers there ensure the rebuilds come from all, say, former Jack Daniels barrels even if they know the origin, plus stave inventories would be built up over time from different sources until needed to fashion into the "hoggies", etc.

Indeed the cooperage art was very important in the U.S., not only in the spirits industries, and same thing in Canada and overseas, whereas today it is much reduced in importance I would think. It was important in brewing until the latter part of the 20th century for example.

I recall Chuck stating (Chuck Cowdery, not sure where I saw this) that today, barrels are constructed to avoid leakage as far as possible and therefore while some still do leak, the problem is not as large as say 30 and 50 years ago.