Tuesday, 24 April 2018


The Devil's Cut

I have an interest in barrels - not just the contents but how they are made. I knew I came from a practical family on the distaff side - my maternal grandfather was an accomplished watercolourist, my mother had nimble fingers - sewing, knitting and even decorating and hanging wallpaper. My older brother started out as fine artist, became a successful potter then turned to boat-building. But it wasn't until much later in my life that I discovered that there was practicality on my father's side. I don't believe he was especially practical but his father, my paternal grandfather, was a cooper in Cork City, Eire.

This title meant that he made barrels, a very skilled occupation. Not for those two wonderful brewers of Irish stout, Murphys or Beamish (which I think equal, or even better, the taste of Dublin brewed Guinness) but for a whiskey* distillery. (* note the different spelling from Scotch whisky).

The names of some of the sizes of barrels are familiar - others, not so.
Beer barrels are called: gallon, firkin, kilderkin, barrel and hogshead, containing from one to 54 imperial gallons.
Wine casks are called: gallon, rundlet, barrel, tierce, hogshead, puncheon/tertian and pipe/butt. These hold from one to 210 imperial gallons.

As well as containing the more usual wine, beer, whisky/whiskey and sherry, barrels are also used for tequila, balsamic vinegar and Tabasco sauce.

An interesting term I came across while doing research was The Devil's Cut. This refers to the portion, or 'cut' of the product that is absorbed into the wood of the barrel. If the barrel is then used to store another product, the devil's cut may in turn leach into the liquid producing interesting new characteristics. 

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