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As part of dekantā’s Whisky 101 series, we’ve created an easy-to-understand guide for whisky novices who are new to the scene and want to learn more about this lovely liquor. In this mini guide, we’ll be explaining what the ‘Angel’s Share’ means in the whisky world. Even the whisky distilleries around the world need to pay their dues, and the angels have chosen quite a luxury dram.
During the maturation stage of the whisky-making process (the part where whisky pros place distilled whisky in barrels), a percentage of the whisky stored inside the casks evaporates and disappears, never to be seen again, every year that the whisky is stored in the casks. This portion, which is approximately 2-5 percent of the whisky liquid, is known as the Angel’s Share. Many whisky distilleries consider this a small sacrifice for the angels above.
So what causes some of the whisky to evaporate into thin air? Multiple factors can be the reason, and the percentage that becomes the Angel’s Share can also be determined by these common elements:
- Age of Whisky – The younger a whisky is, the more evaporation occurs during the maturation stage. Every newly produced whisky will always lose a portion at the beginning of this phase, but it’s a simple, natural process it must go through to produce a better whisky. As a whisky gets older, the evaporation will continue, but it will be at slower rates compared with at the beginning.
- Size of Cask – Casks that are smaller in size tend to make whiskies evaporate much quicker, which also helps speed up the maturation phase. The closer the wood is to the liquid, the faster the dram will vaporize.
- The Climate – Climate is one of the major variables that determine a whisky’s taste, but it’s also a factor which affects the evaporation speed. Warmer and more humid areas will have whiskies that dissolve faster. However, the climate affects which part of the spirit evaporates first. For instance, more humid climates will cause the water in the whiskies to vanish faster than the alcohol. Whisky distilleries near the sea/ocean tend to have the alcohol in the dram evaporate first.
- Air Circulation – If there’s more room around the barrels for air to flow, the higher the percentage of the Angel’s Share will be. To help reduce the amount that dissolves in the casks, it’s best if they are closer to the ground where there’s less air flow.
Although the Angel’s Share is inevitable, there are ways for distilleries to reduce the amount Angel’s Share so that they can reserve more of the spirit. Only whisky-making experts can help find methods to hold onto more of these delectable drams.