While most casks used to create Scotch are ex-Bourbon, a great many come from the Jerez region in Spain. And many of these are from the Antonio Páez Lobato Cooperage.
That’s because Sherry casks are also massively popular for maturing Whisky, and Sherry comes from Jerez. But where do the casks themselves come from? Let’s take a look at the Antonio Páez Lobato Cooperage in Jerez to find out.
Antion Páez Lobato Cooperage: A Family Business
Antonio Páez first started selling his hand made casks in 1956, today it is still run by his family and is in the hands of Isaac Páez, his grandson. Production at the cooperage is massive. They make around 20,000 Sherry casks a year, which is pretty huge, especially considering they only have around 42 people working on production.
The place is like a haven for Sherry drinkers, which, like Whisky, is matured in the casks.
And a cask from Antonio Páez isn’t just any cask, in fact it is one of the very best casks you can mature your sherry in.
How They Do It at Antonio Páez Lobato
This is because each cask is so lovingly made, with every ounce of affection and passion poured into. Or in reality, they’re just really, really good at making casks. The coopers at Antonio Páez Lobato do put in a lot of effort, and it takes a lot to make a cask that won’t leak.
They mostly use European Oak from Romania or France, but on occasion will use American oak. The staves are delivered to the cooperage, where they are air dried for around 15-18 months.
This is where the magic comes in (well, if you’re really into casks, this is where the magic comes in).
They are shaped into a trapezium, which is a real shape and not just made up so we can sound smart.
The shape is vital to the success of the cask. The staves need to work together to hold the liquid in because, like we’ve said before, no one wants a leaky cask.
What’s really amazing about these casks, is that they are all water tight just because of how the staves fit together. There is nothing else holding them together or sealing them. That’s pretty awesome. Although it might just be me who thinks that.
This is where the cooper becomes really important. Some of the hard work and all the quality control testing is done by machine, but the shaping of the cask is the cooper’s time to shine.
Using a production hoop, the cooper will arrange the staves in such a way as they all fit together. That might sound like an easy enough process, but actually it’s pretty difficult, especially when lining things up.
More hoops are added to secure them, and then it is time for the bending process.
Producing the Perfect Bend and Char
The bend in the barrels is made with fire, and Antonio Páez only use the finest oak fire to burn their barrels, where many cooperages use gas. The staves are showered to make them more malleable, and then gentle heated over a flame, again making them more malleable.
A winch is used to tighten the bottom diameter of the cask, while the cooper ensures the staves stay together.
Now comes the really fun bit, at least if you’re a pyro maniac.
Charring is the process of literally burning the inside of the barrels so they become charcoal. There are certain levels of char and each with produce a certain flavour in any liquid placed in the barrel. The barrels are then sanded and have their hoops changed one last time.
The quality at Antonio Páez is so high that no other material is need to seal the barrels, the staves stay in place themselves.
Finally, the casks are filled with Sherry, which is from the Bodega Páez Morilla. It is located close to the cooperage and is affiliated with the brand.
That’s quite a journey to get a cask, and is a huge production line when you consider that 20,000 are made just at this one cooperage.
And on top of that Antonio Páezare one of the best quality coopers around. They pour energy into every cask and the result is a work of art. It’s no wonder they are so sought after.
Take a look at the images below from my visit to the cooperage…