The Barrel: Our most northern monkey

The Barrel: Our most northern monkey

How did a barrel become an ice bath?

Glenfiddich, The Glenlivet, and The Macallan are some of the renowned distilleries and giants of the whisky world, who’ve been crafting single malts and blends for generations. Their barrels come from the Speyside Cooperage, the place where repairing and making casks and barrels is an art form. This is where Dean Bosomworth had an idea. 

Dan and Dale co-founded Brass Monkey in 2020, and when their brother, Dean, tried an Ice Bath last year he was hooked, and decided to join the business. As a trained builder and engineer, he began experimenting with a 500-litre barrel and all the ways he could make it durably water-tight and weather-resistant. Many prototypes were created until the first generation Brass Monkey Barrel was born.

We set up a workshop in the Speyside Valley and began producing Barrels for our customers. Each one takes two engineers two weeks to create from start to finish and each one has a secret history. We take raw barrels from The Cooperage and begin the long process of restoration, and as we crack open their lids we start to understand their story. 

Watch the 12 steps to crafting our unique Brass Monkey Ice Bath Barrel:

Barrel video

The clue is in the colour

The wood inside these barrels comes in different colours depending on what’s been stored inside. Single malt whisky barrels have a charred interior to help it age with a distinctive peaty flavour profile. Where the wood has taken on a pink hue, we know the barrel was once home to a red wine or sherry. The clues don’t stop there. Dean knows that the colour of the lid (beige, crimson, blue and black) indicates how many times the barrel has been used to store different individual malts or blends.

It's about time

Each malt can sit in that barrel for anything between 3 and 50 years, meaning the barrel can easily be anywhere between 30 and 100 years old. We also know the oak trees where the wood originates – usually from Spain or France – will have been somewhere between 200 and 300 years old. Add to this the time the vineyards and distilleries took to produce their whisky and wines, we are looking at a serious piece of history, all sealed into one barrel.  

Barrel being created

When the wood has been prepared, small areas are drilled and carved to accommodate the Chiller technology. When that happens, the smell of whisky, sherry, or wine is released, and you can see how the liquid has penetrated deep into the 40mm oak barrel wall. 

Sanding Barrel

What’s more exciting, is the untraceable provenance, yet incredible value of some of the barrels we use. As an example, a 30-year-old single malt Macallen barrel would be worth a small fortune, and that could be sitting in your garden. Dean and his team, preserve as much detail as possible, from the colours and markings that hint at its previous life to the natural grains of the oak tree it came from. 

Dean’s story

When Dean began to struggle with his mental health last year, Dan invited him to try his Ice Bath. From that day on, Dean cold dips every morning at 5:30am before work. It inspired him to create a new kind of bath, and that’s where the Brass Monkey Barrel idea came from. Dean lives near the Barrel workshop in Speyside, and at this time of year, and with no light pollution, he dips in the cold water with just the wide open sky and the stars for company. 

Every morning, I think of a million excuses why I shouldn’t get in. It’s a challenge every single day to get outside, get in the water, and stay in the water. And it doesn’t get easier. It’s so cold up here now, my Chiller is actually having to warm the water to get to 3°c. I don’t time it when I’m in there, but I think it’s somewhere between 3-5 minutes. After that first 10 seconds, you get into the zen space and then I just get ‘that’ feeling, and I know it’s enough. For me, it’s a coping mechanism. Every morning, you feel like you start the day with a massive win. It’s like that feeling you get after a workout but times that a thousand!”