Scotch whisky barrels usually start life in America or Spain where they are made for the purpose of holding bourbon and sherry respectively. The barrels are made by highly skilled coopers from narrow planks of oak, (staves) that have been steamed to make them pliable enough to be bent into the necessary curved shape. The staves are then assembled into the familiar barrel shape and tightly secured with metal hoops. Top and bottom heads are made from oak planks. No nails, screws or adhesives are used in the manufacture of a barrel as these would taint the taste of the drink inside.
Use of the barrels in Scotland
The Scotch whisky industry buy used barrels from abroad but not to save money. It is the previous contents of the barrel that will ultimately flavour and colour the whisky. When the barrel reaches Scotland it is taken apart and refurbished to ensure it is watertight. Once filled with whisky the barrel will be stored in a dark, cool warehouse to allow the whisky to mature. This maturation period can range from three years to twenty one years or longer. With luck a barrel may last long enough to survive four or five filling cycles but eventually they can no longer be refilled and will be retired after forty to fifty years use in the drinks trade.
Retired Barrels – What next?
Having amassed a mountain of decommissioned barrels, the Scotch whisky industry needed to find ways to reuse them rather than burn them. A few were made into flower planters and more were turned into rainwater catchers but then we got involved......
Fintray Fine Framing's Solution
Here at Fintray Fine Framing we have using reclaimed and sustainable timber to hand craft our own picture mouldings for many years. How could we resist the challenge of using this beautiful natural resource that was on our own doorstep? An idea was formed. We would create curved frames from barrel staves; the only slight problem was that it had never been done before. It has taken years of experimentation with wood shaping and jointing techniques to overcome the challenges of creating a uniform product.
The making of a Whisky Barrel Frame
First the staves are released from the metal hoops that have held them together for many years. Individual staves have their outer surface planed to reveal the natural beauty of the oak. The whisky soaked inner surface usually only needs light attention unless the barrel has been "flamed" in which case we are faced with the messy task of removing the charred surface. The next step of matching the staves for thickness, curve, length and finish is a difficult and time consuming task. The cross pieces are made from the wood of the lid and the joints are created. The photograph, mount and backing board will all bend to conform to the shape of the curve but only acrylic glass can provide the flexibility to glaze the frame and finish it.
Finally we are proud to present elegant, curved frames made from 100% natural oak timber, specifically designed to complement our range of stunning Scottish landscape photography.
Indeed so confident are we in the uniqueness of our product that we successfully applied for intellectual property rights (IPR) for our whisky barrel frames. IPR registration number 4004463 ensures that our unique whisky barrel frame designs should stay unique and should only ever be available from Fintray Fine Framing, a company established and situated in rural Aberdeenshire close to the heart of the Scottish whisky industry.