"It may be an inanimate object, yet it has a personality – you feel a bond with it – it’s a living, breathing organism."
So says our Head Cooper, Ger Buckley, a self-confessed tool obsessive, and a man whose knowledge of wood grows far beyond his professional life. A true craftsman in the purest form of the word, Ger is a fifth generation Midleton Cooper who uses the same methods and tools as his grandfather. His passion stems not only from his family’s lineage, but also from his fascination with the varied attributes his preferred source material allows.
The tools of his trade are an extension of Ger himself; “I collect and interpret tools – I’m interested in the way someone may use a tool differently to myself”, a fact made evident by one of his most treasured possessions, a 90 year old mallet, with a handle worn thin by generations of family use. It was during his formative years as an apprentice, to his own father, that Ger became acquainted with the ancestry of his role, with the methods of coopering undergoing just the slightest of changes since the Roman Empire.
Overseeing the supply and maintenance of all the barrels that Jameson is matured in, Ger is responsible for ensuring that the Distillery’s one million oak casks are in peak condition at all times. Although Ger doesn’t build the casks himself, he and his team of coopers inspect 1,800 casks on a daily basis. He is also tasked with maintaining the relationship with the cask’s previous owners in Jerez in northern Spain and in America, where they held Sherries, Ports and Bourbons. In his ambassadorial role in Jerez, Ger has seen where the oak grows, watched as it’s been quarter-sawed - a very specific cut to get the rings of the trees at 90 degrees on the board and witnessed the casks being hand made by his Spanish counterparts. Ger speaks of an interest in experiencing methods through someone else’s eyes; enabling him to really get a feel for the wood he’ll be working with, something that he counts as one of the highlights of his role at Jameson.
However, it is his passion for the product and the end of the process that Ger takes most pleasure in. He proudly states that “50% of a whiskey’s taste comes from the wood – so the wood and the distillation process have an equal effect on the taste”. Ger’s sense of pride in a job well done is reflected in the complex flavours of sweetness and oak that are present in every glass of Jameson Irish whiskey. “When you see a cask being emptied, with that beautiful golden amber, almost like honey, knowing that the colour has come straight from the casks is a fantastic feeling”.
It is not only the casks themselves that are in Ger’s capable hands, but the future of the craft itself. As one of the country’s last Coopers, Ger has taken on an apprentice to assure that his experience and skills are passed on the next generation.
A true craftsman in the purest form of the word, Ger is a fifth generation Midleton Cooper who uses the same methods and tools as his grandfather. His passion stems not only from his family’s lineage, but also from his fascination with the varied attributes his preferred source material allows.