THERE are only around 200 trained coopers left in the whole of Britain and one family has kept the job a tradition which has lasted generations.

John Carberry has been a cooper with Diageo for the past 27 years and is currently Master Cooper at Diageo's Cambus cooperage in Scotland, where the vast majority of those 200-odd coopers work.

John and his team craft around 250,000 casks each year – many of which will be used to mature Scotch whisky for brands including Johnnie Walker.

But to John, it is much more than just pumping out cask after cask – it is a real family affair.

He said: “Coopering has been in my family for generations; my father, grandfather, uncle and cousin are all in the business so it was a natural step for me when I’d finished school.

“The skills required for the job have remained the same for hundreds of years, I love the idea that I am using the same techniques and, in some cases, the same tools as my ancestors to create the casks.”

There is still a big demand to get into this particular niche area of business, with an apprenticeship attracting a huge range of applicants every year. John, whose dram of choice is a Johnnie Walker Double Black, puts that down to the vast range of skills the trainees develop over their four year stay.

He said: “Our apprentices learn how to shape and bend wood to create the thousands of casks which house our portfolio of spirits. It’s all done through angles and pressure points as no nails or glue can come into contact with the liquid inside, a skill which takes a lot of time to develop.

“Although coopering itself is an ancient trade, we’re constantly seeing innovations in the practice. Over the past few decades, for example, we have been working more closely with blending teams in order to create new flavours for Diageo’s Scotch portfolio.”

Despite it being a centuries-old practice, John and his team are constantly looking to invent new methods.

He continued: “We are constantly working on new ways to treat the wood we use in making the casks, from the way it is charred, to the liquids used to seal the wood (traditionally Sherry). A great example of this in practice is Johnnie Walker Double Black.”

For John and his family, there seems to be no end in sight. He added: “Creating truly global Scotches is what will keep the industry alive and thriving for many years to come.”