Cooper: A skilled crafts person who has learned the trade of barrel making through an apprenticeship or formal cooperage program.
Barrels are made by following a meticulous process. Coopers transform carefully selected oak staves by artfully splitting, hollowing, and tapering them to form the walls of the barrel. Steel hoops are then fitted to hold the panels tightly together, making the barrels leak-proof. The unique flavour of Canadian whiskey comes from the oak used and the process of charring the interior to open the wood's pores, allowing the whiskey to interact more easily with the wood.
A perfectly charred and crafted oak barrel imparts many desirable flavours, such as vanilla and caramel onto the aging whiskey. The oak barrel is so imperative to creating the flavour profile of whiskey that it is considered the third ingredient in its recipe next to water and the type of grain used. Canadian whiskey must be aged in oak barrels for a minimum of three years.