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Woman pouring whisky

When one of my oil and gas customers told me that they had struck a new seam of 'gold', little did I know that they were referring to the distilling industry.

For decades they have been producing high quality precision engineered components from expensive materials such as inconel for the oil and gas industry.

What could possibly link oil and gas to distilling?

Ronald Whyte at Schoolhill Engineering was quick to answer.

"Easy", he said, "...barrels".

From black gold to liquid gold

OK, it's perhaps a bit of a tenuous link as the barrels used in oil and gas and distilling are very different.

But I've been doing some research about barrel-making on your behalf (over a large Macallan in front of a roaring log fire to ease the task, you understand) and I find that considerable work has been done by the Scotch whisky industry to perfect the art of heat-treating wooden barrels.

Previously, whisky barrels were reconditioned by a "DeChar and ReChar" operation without much attention being paid to the wood heating process.

Tests carried out by the Scotch Whisky Research Institute have demonstrated the value of low temperature "toasting" to release desirable flavour elements, from within narrow temperature bands.

Similarly undesirable elements are minimised by this tighter temperature control.

Ron and his team at Schoolhill successfully designed and perfected a toasting system which is being used extensively by forward-looking whisky distillers who strive for much higher levels of quality control.

Watch: Schoolhill's innovative approach to barrel "toasting"

From Ron's manufacturing facility in Aberdeen, the barrel-making machinery is being exported and installed by his engineers 'aa the wye fae Aiberdeen' and all across the US and South America.

For example, South Carolina's Black Water Barrels is a new cooperage business which has recently built a 20,000 square foot oak barrel building facility.

Black Water's goal is to meet the needs of craft distillers for quality American White Oak barrels and Schoolhill are playing their part.

Ron and Schoolhill are now rapidly gaining a following in this niche market, with interest from across the global drinks industry and a constant stream of invitations to talk at global industry forums to influential audiences.

It's fantastic to see that Aberdeen is now on the map as a source of specialist knowledge for modern barrel-making techniques - and that our oil and gas companies continue to look for innovative ways to find additional market opportunities at home and abroad.

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