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  • Writer's picturemichael milloy

10 things you may not know about the angel's share.

Do you know that all of the Scotch Whisky that goes into the whisky cask for maturation, does not necessarily end up in the bottle? Scotch whisky regulations state that new spirit must be matured in Scotland for a minimum of 3 years, in order to be classified as Scotch. In reality, Scotch whisky is generally matured for anything from 3 years to 12 years and often even longer.

1 What is the angel’s share exactly?

Put simply, the angels share is the whisky that is lost in evaporation during the period it sits in the cask, maturing, soaking in the wonderful qualities that the master distillers’ and blenders’ chosen wood has to offer.

2 How much is lost?

The amount of whisky lost is impacted by ambient temperatures, relative humidity, cask integrity and any number of external factors, so no one can ever hand on heart state how much is lost to maturation. However, you could put your finger in the air and say that it is roughly 2% of the cask that is lost for every year it’s in maturation. This of course varies, as more will be lost in the early years when the cask is full and in contact with more wood than will be lost in later years.

3 The dreaded taxman

2% is the allowable loss that can be written off and does not need to be declared to the tax man, so the manufacturers are not liable for duty on this loss although they would still rather keep the whisky, pay the duty and reap the benefits, I am sure.

4 Cask sizes

The size of the cask is important in determining how much whisky is lost to the angels. The smaller the cask, the more whisky is lost. This is due to the relative amount of liquid in contact with wood being greater in a small cask. So, a volume of whisky in small casks would lose more than if that same liquid was maturing in fewer but larger casks as there is less total contact with wood.

5 Storage

Airflow in the warehouses is a critical factor in reducing losses. Full warehouses with little air movement will generate less evaporation and whisky stored in traditional dunnage warehouses where casks are stored on gravel floors are the best. Of course, with today’s volumes, whisky is stored higher and higher in racks, so the traditional floor storage is too expensive to be a practical solution and, in any case, would not fully eliminate losses.

6 Solving the problem

Whisky producers work tirelessly to try and reduce this loss but it has always been an elusive goal. Casks wrapped in plastic is just one technique that has been tried but so far, no positive results have been reported and in fact some studies have shown that it negatively affects the whisky in the end.

7 It’s a lot of whisky

It is thought that there are approximately 22 million casks of Scotch whisky maturing in Scotland at any given time, meaning that the equivalent of 440,000 casks of whisky is shared with the angels every single year.

8 How much?

This is the rough equivalent of 29 million gallons or 44 Olympic size swimming pools full of Scotch whisky. We Scots are a generous lot, are we not?

9 Devil’s Cut

You will hear some refer to the Devils Cut. This is much less talked about and a lot less impactful on losses. This is the whisky that is lost to absorption into the wood itself, so is not actually evaporated into the air for the angels. This of course has benefits for the cask. When the staves are used again for future maturations, these remnants will add to flavour characteristics.

10 Angel’s Envy

Angels Envy is the term used for the whisky that remains, The spirit that the angels did not manage to get their hands on.

This is the golden liquid that will go on to be finished into the Scotch whisky that we all know and love, hopefully in your glass. If you would like to speak to one of the whisky distillers or blenders at a scotch whisky distillery, why not come on a journey with Whisky Prestige and see the distiller shudder when the angels share is mentioned.

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