What is The Angels Share?
Picture yourself standing in a dimly lit distillery, surrounded by towering barrels that hold the promise of rich and flavorful whiskey.
As you breathe in the intoxicating aroma, you might not be aware of an enchanting process taking place within those barrels – the Angel’s Share. This captivating phenomenon, often shrouded in mystery and folklore, plays a significant role in the world of whiskey production.
The term “Angel’s Share” refers to the portion of whiskey that evaporates during the aging process while the spirit matures in oak barrels. This evaporation, often estimated to be around 2-4% of the total volume per year, creates a bond between the whiskey and the environment it’s stored in. The evaporated alcohol and water mixture is said to be a tribute to the angels, as they supposedly enjoy this heavenly vapor.
Origins and Folklore The origins of the term are a bit hazy, much like the vapor that inspired it. It’s believed that the phrase dates back to the early days of whiskey production, possibly in Scotland or Ireland. In these regions, whiskey distilleries were often located in remote and idyllic areas.
As the spirit aged, distillers noticed a reduction in volume due to the evaporation process. This led to the whimsical idea that the lost portion was being taken by angels or spirits, hence the name “Angel’s Share.”
Scientific Explanation While the folklore adds a touch of magic to the process, the Angel’s Share can be explained scientifically.
The aging barrels are not entirely airtight, allowing a slow exchange of air between the outside environment and the whiskey inside. This exposure to oxygen and temperature changes causes the alcohol to evaporate at a slightly faster rate than water, leading to a concentration of flavors and aromas over time.
This interaction between the spirit and the wood of the barrel also imparts characteristics like color, texture, and complexity to the final product.
Impact on Whiskey Production The Angel’s Share might seem like an inefficiency, as it results in a loss of volume and potential revenue for distilleries. However, this natural process is crucial for developing the distinct qualities that define a great whiskey.
The interaction with the wooden barrel enhances the whiskey’s flavor profile, softening harsh notes and introducing nuances that contribute to its uniqueness. Furthermore, the evaporation process accelerates aging, which can be both a boon and a challenge for distillers. It means that in certain climates, where the rate of evaporation is high due to temperature fluctuations, whiskey can mature faster and develop robust flavors more quickly.
On the flip side, excessive evaporation can lead to over-aging, making the whiskey overly woody or tannic.
Cultural Significance Beyond its impact on production, the Angel’s Share has also embedded itself in the culture of whiskey enthusiasts. It symbolizes the passage of time and the artistry of whiskey-making.
Many distilleries hold it in high regard, celebrating the notion that the lost portion is a sacrifice to the angels, paying homage to tradition and heritage.
Conclusion The Angel’s Share is more than just a whimsical concept; it’s a phenomenon that shapes the very essence of whiskey.
As you savor that glass of aged spirit, remember the mystical process that led to its creation – the slow dance between the whiskey and the barrel, the influence of time and nature, and the whispered touch of angels that elevate it from a mere drink to a liquid masterpiece.