Watch The Interview & Tour Of Auld Mill Wood

On episode 13 of the Cask 88 Lock-in we ventured to the Auld Mill Wood to speak with Angus Crabbie, the founder of Trees4Scotland. Click the button below to watch the full episode now.

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A Tree Planted For Every
Cask Sold

Scottish forests are greatly diminished. A worrying prospect considering the vital role they have to play in the regulation of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, in the preservation of biodiversity, and in maintaining the beauty of our natural spaces, among other things.

Oak trees are completely indispensable to the whisky industry, since every Bourbon barrel (the standard size) uses between 45 – 55kg of wood. Cask 88 are committing to repay what we take from forests around the globe, by pledging to plant new Scottish oak trees from the sales we make of oak casks of Scottish whisky.

Why no Casks Made of Scottish Oak?

Scotch whisky is fiercely proud of its origins. Single malts are regional, territorial beasts, keenly connected with their surroundings. Distilleries are always focused on the quality of their local water source, and use local peat and locally grown barley wherever possible. But one thing that you almost never see, is a whisky matured in a cask made from Scottish Oak.

American white oak casks are prolific around the world, providing sweet vanilla maturations, and European oak casks, though rarer, are found giving a deeper and spicier note to the spirit within them. France, Portugal, Spain, even Sweden have access to locally grown timber to make their casks. Scotland – the nexus of malt whisky – must rely on imported wood.

Scotland was once a densely wooded part of the world, and it must have seemed that the supply of trees was endless. Agriculture and timber use over thousands of years slowly ate away at Scotland’s native forests, with nobody seriously imagining a treeless future. But that’s where we find ourselves in the 21st century – only about 5% of the originally forested land remaining. Certainly, any remaining Scottish oak trees are too precarious to turn into casks.

Not Only Good For Making

Broadleaf Forests are beautiful places – a vital part of the habitats for local wildlife, preserving biodiversity, an aspect so varied and important to humanity and the planet in general that we can only touch upon it here. Preservation of local water resources, and subsequently, water quality, is also dependent on responsible stewardship of our forests, as is the alleviation of environmental risks, such as floods and wildfires. And need we mention that trees eat CO² for breakfast?

The Response

Momentum is growing for the pushback, and groups are springing up, vigorously ready to reverse the decline and bring tree cover back to the Scottish landscape. People are reclaiming land, planting and nurturing saplings through their vulnerable years, inch by inch letting broad leaves unfurl and create new canopies over the land.

It’s a slow process, and will not be bringing Scottish oak casks back for commercial use in our lifetime. Or our kids’, or even our grandkids’. A European Quercus robur needs about 150 years to reach maturity – and the freshly regrown forests will not want to be exploited for timber again so soon.

A New Tree for an Old Cask

As a business specialised in Scotch whisky, we worship the oak cask. We are well aware of the subtle dance between oak and maturing spirit, how oak helps harshness to soften in the alcohol, and how new flavours are slowly alchemised within the quiet darkness of the cask. If we look to the future, we’re pleased by the vision of a landscape where broad oak trees once again stand in great numbers, in community with birch, hazel and pine.

We’re delighted to be working with Trees4Scotland – a local group who are working hard to reforest the native woodlands of Scotland. Every cask of whisky we sell generates a small donation towards the work of Trees4Scotland, which funds the planting of new oak trees and the other species needed for a healthy broadleaf forest. This allows Trees4Scotland to continue their work translating the wood of the cask that was purchased into new oak trees – and there’s a pleasing circularity to that.

These trees will likely never become casks themselves – but as the sight of native oak becomes more common in Scotland over the next 300-800 years… we may see some more Scotch whiskies matured in locally grown casks as well!

Auld Mill Wood

Trees4Scotland are currently developing a new native woodland in Perthshire, named Auld Mill Wood’. Trees planted in the area will include oak, birch, rowan, alder, willow, hazel and holly – amongst others, with the aim of generating a mecca for woodland and wetland wildlife. The woodland will incorporate wetland pond areas, pedestrian paths, scenic viewpoints and newly restored mill pond. Each contribution to the new woodland not only is a sustainable action for the good of our planet, but also contributes to the enduring beauty of the Scottish Highlands.

Every new cask purchase made through Cask 88 will contribute to the reforestation of this burgeoning new woodland. Auld Mill Wood is within a short distance of our base at Errol Park in Perthshire, and lies en-route to ‘whisky country’ in Speyside. We look forward to joining some of you there in the future, to take a closer look at what we have achieved.