In the Highlands of Scotland, a blackening is a custom usually performed to a bride or groom in the weeks leading up to their wedding. It’s a process of tarring, feathering and, most importantly, good-natured embarrassment.
But at Speyside Cooperage, they perform a slightly different blackening…
Their blackening is done to celebrate an apprentice reaching the end of their time served – and on top of the usual tarring and feathering, they also roll the newly qualified cooper around in the last cask they made!
It’s a tradition that can be traced all the way back to the 14th century and was historically called ‘trussing the cooper’.
Reece Cooper – it was his perhaps his destiny to be a cooper with his surname – was the latest to be blackened at Speyside Cooperage at the end of January, having served his apprenticeship from the age of 16, now being 20.
On a Friday afternoon, his co-workers guarded the doors and prepared for the blackening by strategically placing buckets full of a mix of flour, treacle, mollases and goodness knows what else. Then, at a choreographed moment, the other coopers seized their target and the blackening began!
Needless to say, there were some nervous apprentices looking on at the whole process, but this is a rite of passage and always finished off with a few celebratory drinks, so it’s not all bad.
Not your average Friday, but a fantastic tradition and a unique experience for curious on-lookers.
Speyside Cooperage is a great site to visit on our Malt Whisky Trail.
It has craftspeople working by hand to create these amazing casks, used to age and mature whisky. Part of the tour lets you watch the coopers at work from a viewing platform – or down on the factory floor if you go with their VIP package.
You can find details of tours and opening times on the Speyside Cooperage page.