Binding Staves

To distiller and dram lover alike, the whisky barrel is truly a thing of beauty. Its rotund simplicity belies marvellous engineering, the often drab exterior giving no hint to the magical charred workings which lie within. Though heavy, an experienced hand can roll and move one with ease, its strength enough to survive many, many years of use. Made with nothing more than oak, steel and skill, these portly fellows spend more time with the spirit than stills or any other part of the whisky making process.

Each barrel consists of a number of wooden staves, cut from oak and carefully shaped from simple planks by the Cooper into a purposeful shape. Narrow at the ends, wider in the middle, the skilled barrel maker will place and hone each strip of wood to fit its neighbour until they can be confined in a tight circle by the metal belts which cinch their circumference together. Heat and water combined with great effort, hoops and hammer finally bend and bow these staves into the traditional barrel’s shape, the fit so tight between each stave that no nails or glue are required to form a seal.


The build of these beautiful barrels brings to mind the resilience of remote communities like our own. Like the staves we are all individuals, unique in the way we are cut, differing in shape and size, no two of us alike. Alone we struggle to stand, unbalanced as we often are. But alongside others we can find support, we gain strength and can build something greater than the sum of our parts. Like the staves of a barrel we can connect and bind tightly with others to make something of real purpose.

It seemed a fitting metaphor to draw upon when we were considering ways to bring our 1,916 endeavour to life. We wanted to not only reward those who joined with us and our community in Harris but also to hold these people close to us at the distillery for decades to come. The importance of wood, its effect on our spirit, the fortitude and physicality the staved barrel brings to our whisky making…we wanted to capture a little of that to reflect how much we value the copper card holders of the 1,916.


Those who join us will proudly take their place in the wall of staves at the heart of our Tarbert cask warehouse. Their names will be inscribed on the edge of a wooden oak stave and added to the specially constructed steel rack designed to hold each of these staves in a unique, undulating wave of wood. These names represent not just those folk who have placed their faith in our plans but also new members of our community, welcomed here whenever they can make the journey, from wherever they call home.

We built this distillery to last many lifetimes and the staves we engrave will be bound here for as long as we remain standing. Which, with the support of the 1,916 will be for generations to come. We’re looking forward to watching the names on this wonderful wall grow until the piece is complete, a testament to our island’s ambitions and the enthusiasm of the wider world for the work we do.

We’d love you to join with us and others who share our hopes and dreams, plans and goals. Together we can build something to stand the tests of time.

Learn more about joining the 1,916 here.

Or go directly to the 1,916 shop page here.

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