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Ger Buckley

Master Cooper

“It may be an inanimate object, yet it has a personality – you feel a bond with it – it’s a living, breathing organism.” 

So says our Master Cooper Ger Buckley, a self confessed tool obsessive and a man whose knowledge of wood spans both his personal and professional lives. A true craftsman in the purist form of the word, Ger often describes himself as trapped in a history bubble. As a fifth-generation Midleton Cooper using the same methods as his grandfather, Ger’s personal craft stems not only from his family’s lineage, but also from his fascination with the varied attributes his preferred source material allows. 

It was during his formative years as an apprentice to his own Cooper father that Ger became acquainted with the ancestry of his role, with the methods of coopering undergoing just the slightest of changes since the Roman Empire. “I collect and interpret tools – I’m interested in the way someone may use a tool differently to myself”, a fact made evident by one of Ger’s treasured forms of apparatus, a 90 year old mallet with the handle worn thin by generations of family use. 

Having been an admirer of Jameson since his youth, when he marvelled at his father’s collection of whiskeys, a young Ger Buckley “always recognised the green bottle and crest as being the best”. Now overseeing the supply and maintenance of all casks Jameson is matured in, Ger is responsible for ensuring the Distillery’s 1 million oak casks are at peak condition at all times. 

The white oak barrels that eventually mature Jameson Whiskey come either from Jerez in Northern Spain or America, having already held Bourbons, Ports and Sherries. Though Ger and his fellow coopers don’t build the barrels themselves, their role is a vital one as they inspect around 1700-1800 casks daily, looking for any possible defects before the filling process commences. 

“50% of a whiskey’s taste comes from the wood – so the wood and the distillation process have an equal effect on the taste” Ger states proudly, “with excellent warehouse management, this means that when casks have finished their life span, maybe 25 to 30 years later, they look as good as the did the day they were filled.” 

Maintaining a great relationship with their Spanish colleagues in Jerez also falls under Ger’s remit. He’s seen where the oak is grown in northern Spain, watched as it’s been quarter sawn, a very specific cut to get the rings of the trees at 90 degrees on the board, and then seen the casks made in Jerez. Ger speaks of an interest in experiencing methods through someone else’s eyes; enabling him to really get a feel for the wood he’ll be working with, and something that he counts as one of the highlights of his role at Jameson. 

However, it’s the passion for the product at the end of the process that really shines through in conversation. Ger’s obvious love for the complex flavours of sweetness and oak in Jameson Whiskey, stems from his own satisfaction in a job well done. “When you see a cask being emptied, with that beautiful golden amber, almost like honey, knowing that the colour has come straight from the casks is a fantastic feeling”. 

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