All whisky is matured in oak barrels to soften the new spirit and extract the good stuff from the oak barrel. Over time, the wood transforms the raw whisky into those fantastic mellow drams. At Firkin Whisky Company, we use a custom-made cask. Our casks have two types of oak staves which changes the whisky. But that’s another story.
Let’s talk about Angels Share
As the oak is porous, the whisky extracts the oaky flavours. That’s the secret of whisky maturation. There are some natural wood sugars and colour from the wood.
That’s great, but there is a downside. It allows some of the whisky to evaporate and that is called The Angels Share.
Whisky evaporates slower in colder wetter climates. The evaporation loss in Scotland is around 2-3% per year. That means if your whisky is ten years old, it will have lost about 20% to 30% of its original contents over that time.
Apply that to the annual production of whisky in Scotland then that’s millions of litres of the Holy Spirit. Suffice to say that the Angels in Scotland are some of the happiest on the planet.
I’m not exactly looking forward to passing on. But I can see some benefits in this situation. Hover over your favourite distillery or do a virtual tour of Islay from above. What’s not to like?
You may have heard about something called a vertical tasting. That’s when you take one distillery or vineyard and do a comparative tasting of several years. Well, this is the afterlife version.
The Angels Share Vertical Tasting
Caol Ila Distillery from 1,000 feet in the air
First up is the 1000 feet version. Enjoy a dram whilst taking a close look at what’s happening down below. Have you ever been in a hot air balloon? You can hear everything that people say on the ground. It’s amazing. Can you imagine how good this would be floating over your favourite distillery? Hearing all the banter and getting your share?
Next is the 10,000 feet vertical. You get the real panoramic view. If you are over the island of Islay, you can do a virtual tour of at least 10 of those tremendous peaty whisky distilleries. You are spoilt for choice.
Map of the Islay Distilleries
Back to Earth
In Scotland, the Angels take 2-3% per year. But you have to commiserate with those folks in hot and dry climates.
Blue Grass fans see their favourite Bourbon disappearing at over 3% each year. You will be a sad distiller down under with about 5% disappearing in the summer.
Whichever way you want to view it, what you lose in the first life you can enjoy in the second. That’s what we call a Happy Firkin ending.
Over my 40 years in the whisky industry, I've met some talented & amusing folk. These stories reflect some of the bonhomie & inspired moments.
Mike Collings, Founder The Firkin Whisky Co, and Evan Hirsch, Co-founder of TopWhiskies.