THE 9,395km BAR-REL MASTERCLASS
Updated: Jan 18
Vienna to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, that's 9,395 kilometres. Let's do this!
Join our a new journey with this very special "remote Masterclass". Ian is about to start his very own Bar-rel Drinks Cabinet using a Hogshead Cask from the Glenrothes distillery.
Part 1: The Barrel
I had a feeling that Pierre was up to something. But I had no idea what it was.
Pierre and I have many shared passions. Mountaineering, woodworking, food, family... but most of all, whisky. We spent many fun evenings during five years in Vienna exploring different whiskys and working on projects big and small in the Fait Maiz workshop. And I often lamented the fact that I wouldn't have space to take one of Pierre's Bar-rel's with me when my temporary assignment in Vienna came to an end.
But as the date of my move to Malaysia approached there was a twinkle in Pierre's eye that I couldn't quite fathom. Then on moving day itself came a cryptic message:
"I left something in your garage - see if it fits". And there it was. A hogshead barrel, from Glenrothes distillery in Speyside. An amazing piece of history that started life as a bourbon cask, and then spent many years maturing one of my all-time favourite whiskys.
I would have happily sacrificed just about any item of furniture to be able to take it with me, but luck was on my side and it squeezed into the shipping container and was on its way to Kuala Lumpur.
For those who haven't worked with Pierre yet, you should know that he runs a "Masterclass", where he guides you through the process of making your own Bar-rel in his workshop (alongside much whisky drinking, barbequing and general amusement). And Pierre's idea was simple - he would do a remote masterclass with me, via Facetime, once I arrived in KL.
I know for a fact that there is no way I will match Pierre's creations. But I know that with Pierre's endless good humour and patience it will be a lot of fun trying, and I'll be telling the story here on Pierre's blog as it unfolds.
Part 2: The Clean Up
The first issue I had to grapple with is the fact that if you work with Pierre you have a fully-equipped workshop at your fingertips - whereas here in KL I have a random assortment of barely fit-for-purpose power tools, some dating back two generations of my family. Luckily, in Malaysia you can minimally equip yourself for any project with a visit to "Mr DIY", a hardware store guaranteed to have almost (but not exactly) what you were looking for.
So suitably equipped with an assortment of angle grinder attachments of dubious quality I set to work.
Step one was to remove decades of dirt, grime rust and old paint from the outside of the barrel. This turned out to be a rather fun family activity, as watching well-seasoned oak and burnished steel appear from under the thick layer of grime was truly mesmerising.
At various stages in this build you have to remove, clean and refit the metal hoops which hold the staves together. There is a specific tool for this called a Hoop Driver, but unfortunately this was beyond even the realms of Mr DIY's product range - but an old spanner cut down with an angle grinder made a passable substitute. Improvise, adapt and overcome!
A big challenge was the Malaysian climate - in 30 degree heat and 90% humidity the painstakingly cleaned steel hoops would rust again overnight if given half a chance. We tried various solutions and discovered a liberal application of mineral oil both stopped the rust from reappearing and left a deep, glossy surface finish. The downside was that this rendered the barrel rather too slippery to move, but luckily this proved to be only temporary!