We often heard a term “angels’ share” when we talk about whisky. It sounds very mysterious – how is whisky related to angels?
Let's share the secret of angels here.
Angels' shares actually refers to the amount of whisky lost during the ageing process. It is natural phenomenon that a small amount of whisky evaporates through the wood cask into the atmosphere during maturation. In Scotland, around 2% of the liquid disappears every year. Over the years, people come to think of this as a tax to pay the heavens. By giving the angels their share, we ensure the whisky is the best it can possibly be when it’s bottled.
What are the benefits of Angels' Share?
Angels’ share actually plays a necessary role in whisky maturation. The process of evaporation is how distilleries eliminate some of the undesirable parts of their whisky. A “fresh” batch of whisky may be nearly 190 proof or higher and the flavour of the beverage would not be very appealing. Many distilleries want to reduce the percentage of alcohol through the evaporation process and allow other ingredients to intensify the subtle flavours of whisky. Therefore, distillery will store their whisky in a heavily charred oak barrel.
What are the factors that affect the amount of Angels' shares?
Age of Whisky Generally, the longer a whisky sits, the more of it evaporates away. Every newly produced whisky evaporates more during the maturation stage. So, the angels' share will be right at the top of the spectrum in very beginning of the cask. As a whisky gets older, the evaporation will continue but at a slower rate compared with at the beginning.
Cask Size Whisky stored in a smaller sized cask will tend to evaporate quicker. The maturation process is thus speeded up due to increased contact between the liquid and the cask.
Climate Climates affect which part of the whisky evaporates faster and the speed of evaporation. For instance, higher humidity leads to faster water loss than alcohol. It strengthens the wood influence to the whisky. That’s in contrast to what happens with whisky distilleries near the sea/ocean tend to have the alcohol in the cask evaporate first, such as Speyside Region. Warmer weather also enhances liquid loss.
Air Circulation Air flow matters! With better air circulation, evaporation occurs more likely. That is why casks are often stored on racks or pallets which means they’re raised slightly from the ground to increase air flow around the casks.