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In the world of whisky making, there's a poetic term that resonates with distillers, connoisseurs, and casual drinkers alike: the "Angel's Share." This mystical-sounding phrase refers to the quantity of whisky that evaporates from the casks during maturation. While it might seem like a small detail in the grand process of whisky production, the Angel’s Share plays a crucial role in shaping the final spirit's character, quality and scarcity. In this blog post, we'll explore what the Angel's Share is, why it occurs, and how it affects the whisky that eventually makes it into our glasses.

What is the Angel's Share?

The Angel’s Share is a term used to describe the portion of whisky that is lost to evaporation while the spirit ages in barrels . The name evokes an image of celestial beings partaking in the fruits of human labor, a romantic notion that the whisky is so divine that even angels cannot resist taking a sip. Unfortunately for all celestial beings out there, the truth is much more scientific than that.

Why Does Evaporation Happen?

Whisky is typically aged in wooden casks, often made from oak. These casks are not completely airtight, which means that some of the liquid inside slowly escapes into the atmosphere over time. Several factors influence the rate of evaporation, including the type of wood used for the cask, the age of the cask, the climate in which the whisky is stored, and how the casks are maintained.

In warmer climates, evaporation happens more quickly, which can lead to a higher Angel's Share. This is one reason why whiskies aged in tropical regions like India or Taiwan often have shorter maturation periods compared to those aged in Scotland or Ireland.

(In Vietnam, distilleries lose up to 12% of their liquid per year.)

Impact on Whisky

The evaporation process has a silver lining. As the volume of liquid decreases, the remaining whisky interacts more intensely with the wood, absorbing a greater concentration of flavours and colours. This interaction is vital, as it imparts the complex flavours and aromas that whisky lovers cherish. The wood contributes notes of vanilla, caramel, spices, and fruits, transforming the clear, raw spirit into a rich and mellow whisky.

Additionally, the reduction in volume increases the concentration of the whisky, often leading to a more pronounced and robust flavour profile. This is why older whiskies, which have given up more to the Angel's Share, are often more intense and flavourful.

The Cost of the Angel's Share

While the Angel's Share is accepted as a natural part of whisky aging, it represents a decent loss over time, particularly for distilleries that maintain large stocks of aging whisky. For example, in Scotland, it's estimated that the industry loses around 1.5-2% of its stored whisky to the Angel's Share each year. Over decades, this compounds and makes the Angel's Share something that distilleries and cask investors should take into consideration, but which also makes aged whisky a scarce and sought-after product as there is literally less of it that has not been evaporated.

A Necessary Sacrifice

Despite the financial impact, the Angel's Share is often seen as a necessary sacrifice in the pursuit of crafting exquisite spirits. Distillers accept this loss as part of the natural aging process, essential for achieving the depth of flavour and complexity that premium whiskies are known for and the scarcity which makes it a sought-after product. In a way, the Angel’s Share is not just a loss; it's a testament to the care, time, and tradition that go into each bottle of whisky.

So next time you pour yourself a dram, raise a toast to the heavens.


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