St Lucia Distillers Upgrades Barrel Cooperage

An initiative that is part of a CARIFORUM project funded by the European Union within the context of their support for the Caribbean Economic Partnership Agreement and implemented by the West Indies Rum & Spirits Producers Association (WIRSPA), provided a training workshop for regional distillers.

This training workshop is aimed at upgrading ability of producers to maintain their stock of rum ageing barrels.

It underscored maintenance of age old traditions and commitment to producing premium quality Authentic Caribbean Rums.

Group-of-Coopers[3][1][1]Coopers from several smaller Caribbean distilleries recently spent an intensive week’s training at Angostura Distillery in Trinidad learning to repair and maintain the wooden barrels in which rum is placed to age and mature.

Premium Authentic Caribbean Rums are aged in oak barrels and keeping them leak-free is a challenge. This is where coopers come into the picture; using age old techniques passed down over the years, coopers use their skills and mostly hand tools to keep barrels of ageing rum from leaking away.

The training session was an initiative of the West Indies Rum & Spirits Producers’ Association, in collaboration with Angostura. It is one of many knowledge exchange activities funded through the CARIFORUM project.

The project is aimed at strengthening the industry so as to better enable it to compete in international markets.

“Ageing of our rums in wooden barrels is a core part of producing our quality Authentic Caribbean Rums”, says Frank Ward, Chairman of WIRSPA. “At the same time, it is an expensive process as we lose significant amounts each year to evaporation and sometimes leakage. This initiative will provide practical training to the smaller distilleries in the WIRSPA family on how to reduce these losses and extend the life of their barrel stock. It’s in the barrel that our unique flavours develop and our coopers have an immense responsibility in making this happen.”

The workshop was preceded by a WIRSPA webinar held with John Niehoff of Brown Forman Corporation,
the largest supplier of oak barrels to the spirits industry and addressed the current state of the market for barrels and best practice in barrel management.

According to Margaret Monplaisir, MD of St Lucia Distillers which took part in the training exercise, “We do have an extensive inventory of rum ageing at any one time. Making sure those barrels are in good condition is really important if we want to keep our product top quality. We’re indebted to WIRSPA and Angostura, and of course the EU, for making this happen.”

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