An Industry First

Diageo appoints first female coopering apprentices
By Rob Allanson
Angela Cochrane, Kirsty Olychick and the team
Angela Cochrane, Kirsty Olychick and the team
The ancient craft of creating oak casks has been part of Scotch whisky for centuries, but the industry can now celebrate a (long-overdue) new first with the recruitment of two female coopering apprentices.

First-year coopering apprentices – Angela Cochrane and Kirsty Olychick – have been recruited by leading Scotch distiller Diageo, at its Cambus Cooperage in Clackmannanshire – and are now breaking down the gender barriers and blazing a pioneering trail in the once male dominated trade.

The news marked the start of Scottish Apprenticeship Week, with Diageo celebrating having women employed in every part of its business in Scotland, from senior management roles, to distillery managers, master blenders, electrical and mechanical engineers, and in the traditional crafts of coppersmith and coopering. Last year Diageo celebrated another diversity break-through in a traditional whisky craft when Rebecca Weir became the first female apprentice at the company’s Abercrombie Coppersmiths.

Angela and Kirsty are part of team of 16 coopering apprentices in the Coopering School at Diageo Cambus, learning the tried and tested skills that have been used for centuries to make the oak casks for the crucial maturation of Scotch whisky.

The physically demanding four-year apprenticeship, which integrates theory alongside practical and hands-on experience, will allow the apprentices to master the traditional hand-craft skills of the cooper.