Unveiling the Angel’s Share: Unlocking the Secrets of Whisky’s Hidden Loss

Whisky enthusiasts who have been entranced by the world of whisky may have heard the term “Angel’s Share”. But, what is the Angel’s Share? How much is it? How does it impact investors and collectors alike? 

Well, if you’ve ever been intrigued by the mystique surrounding whisky production we delve into the depths of this hidden loss. 

In this article, we’ll uncover the historical significance, scientific principles, and profound impact of the Angel’s Share on your beloved dram. Prepare to be enchanted by the ethereal transformation that shapes the very essence of whisky.

whisky whiskey angels share

The Meaning of the Angel’s Share

When we speak of the Angel’s Share, we refer to the portion of whisky that is lost to evaporation during the maturation process

Whisky, or whiskey, is not able to take on that name until it has been matured in a cask for a certain period of time. In terms of scotch whisky, the spirit needs to be in a cask for three years. 

Legends and folklore have woven tales around this ethereal phenomenon, attributing the loss to benevolent angels who claim their due from the whisky casks. 

Beyond the folklore, the Angel’s Share holds symbolic importance, representing the sacrifice that distillers make in their quest for excellence.

READ MORE: Edinburgh scientists seek to restore old whisky flavours

How Much Whisky is Lost to the Angel’s Share?

On average in Scotland 1-2% of whisky is lost to the Angel’s Share per year. This figure is different for countries with warmer climates, for example, in India, the rate of evaporation is around 12% per year. 

So, before a whisky can be classified as Scotch whisky it needs to mature at least 3 years. Therefore a Scotch whisky will lose between 3-6% of volume to the Angel’s Share before it is bottled. 

If a whisky is stored for 25 years it could lose up to 25-50% of its volume in Scotland! 

Which is part of what makes the famous liquor so valuable. But more on that later.

The Science Behind the Angel’s Share

The Angel’s Share is primarily a result of evaporation, influenced by a multitude of factors. 

These factors determining the rate of evaporation include: 

  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • Air circulation
  • Air pressure
  • Barrel storage
  • Cask size
  • Cask fill level

Whisky distilleries located in different regions experience distinct evaporation patterns, creating unique flavour profiles. 

Additionally, the type of cask used for maturation and the duration of ageing also impact the Angel’s Share, as well as the delicate balance between evaporation and absorption.

The effect of evaporation on American whiskey and Scotch whisky has been investigated by scientists. They found that there is a web-like effect during the evaporation process of American whiskey, with Scotch presenting a coffee ring-like effect. So, even at the chemical level, the Angel’s Share is varied and creates different flavour profiles.

Impact on Whisky’s Flavour Profile

The loss to the angels may seem unfortunate, but it is precisely this sacrifice that contributes to the complexity and depth of flavour in whisky. As the alcohol evaporates, the concentration of flavours within the cask intensifies, allowing for intricate chemical interactions to shape the final product. 

The Angel’s Share creates a harmonious interplay between the remaining liquid and the wood, lending subtle nuances of vanilla, oak, and spices that tantalize the palate. 

In addition to this, master whisky makers use different casks in the maturation process to enhance flavour. Wine, sherry and bourbon casks are commonly used to add complexity. Each bring their own subtlety to flavour profiles as maturation occurs.

The Angel’s Share in Whisky Collecting and Investing

For collectors and investors, the Angel’s Share holds a special allure. Rare and limited-edition whiskies, having experienced a significant loss to the angels, become even more coveted. 

The greater the Angel’s Share, the greater the potential value of the whisky, as it represents a rarer and more concentrated expression of the distiller’s art. Discerning investors consider the optimal Angel’s Share ratio when seeking out whiskies with potential long-term value appreciation.

Taming the Angels: Mitigating Whisky Loss

Innovative techniques have been employed by distilleries to minimize the impact of the Angel’s Share. It has to be said, that no distillery can mitigate the loss entirely.

Climate-controlled maturation warehouses, for instance, help regulate temperature and humidity, reducing evaporation rates. 

Distilleries also employ advanced cask management practices to ensure the whisky remains in optimal conditions throughout its maturation journey. They use master whisky makers to regularly test the loss and the flavour profile. Then, if they are aiming for a particular profile, transfer the liquid to a different cask.

However, these practices have sparked debates, as some argue that the reduction of the Angel’s Share may alter the traditional characteristics and soul of the whisky.

A Romance for Investors

As we conclude our exploration of the Angel’s Share, we come to appreciate the hidden loss that imparts an air of mystery and romance to the world of whisky. 

We mentioned above some reasons why collectors and investors find joy in the Angel’s Share, so is it time to start your own whisky journey?

UKV International AG have been fascinated by whisky for years. We have developed that fascination into expertise when it comes to collectors or investors. 

If you are interested in whisky for consumption, collection or investment then we can help. 

Our experts can identify what whisky is best for you, and then help you acquire it, whatever your intention. 

Speak to UKV today and find out more about the world of whisky!