Even the most casual fan of whisky has likely heard the legend of "the Angels' share." It's said that a wee bit of whisky evaporates away during the aging process floating upwards to the Angels, thus becoming "the Angels' share."
There is truth to the legend - well some of it. Distilled spirits are virtually undrinkable after their sugar content has fermented into alcohol. This pure grain alcohol can have an alcoholic content of 190 proof, or more! To reduce the percentage of alcohol and simultaneously enhance the subtle flavorings of the spirit, producers age their spirits in oak barrels, a minimum of 7 years for whisky. The staves of the barrels, or casks, are often charred to give the spirit a distinctive taste. Over time, some of the contents evaporate out into the air, about 2% of volume in each barrel. In the case of whisky, a single cask can lose up to 14% of volume or more in the aging process. This evaporated psirit becomes. "the Angels' share." This aging process also helps the spirit to mellow to a more palatable 86 proof alcoholic content.
This legend is shared as part of virtually every distillery tour, not just in Scotland, but around the world. It is a legend that is near timeless, and until recently, no one had ever found a way to visualize the wee legend. Tom Young and his daughter, Karen Sommerville, have changed that with the founding of Angels' Share Glass and, through a secret process, the creation of their signature product, the Angels' Share Whisky Angel - a small glass angel figurine with a wee bit of whisky captured inside for no one to enjoy, but the angel!
Born in Glasgow, Tom Young has been a glass blower for some 60 years. He started doing scientific laboratory glass work. In 1967 he established a scientific glassblowing department at Stirling University. He left the university in 1979 to concentrate on creative and decorative glassware, founding Village Glass. His studio became a tourist attraction and he has created works for clients worldwide. The company had a close association with the whisky industry providing glassworks used in the distilling process.
His daughter, Karen Sommerville, lends her business expertise to the company as Managing Director, and all was well and good until, in 2012, along came an independent Scottish film called - yes, The Angel's Share. From Wikipedia...
The Angels' Share is a Scottish comedy - drama film directed by Ken Loach, starring Paul Brannigan, John Henshaw, William Ruane, Gary Maitland, Jasmin Riggins, and Siobhan Reilly. It tells the story of a young Glaswegian father who narrowly avoids a prison sentence. He is determined to turn over a new leaf and when he and his friends from the same community payback group visit a whisky distillery, a route to a new life becomes apparent.
Seeing this film, Tom and Karen realized how unique a product they might have if they could create a 3-D visualization of the "Angels' Share" legend. Tom's previous experience working in scientific circles paid off and through experimentation he discovered a way to capture whisky inside of molten glass without it combusting - and thus was born, the Angel's Share Whisky Angel and a new craft business. The angels were shared around a few distilleries and in focus groups and the pair knew they had a hit!
In the few years since the business was launched, Angels' Share Glass, has been constantly evolving along with their product line. An assistant glassblower has joined the team, sworn to secrecy of course, and a host of new products have emerged, all with the whisky drinker in mind. Most popular of all is their whisky dropper for adding just the right measure of water to your whisky. These feature figureheads including a Scottish thistle, a copper pot still, Nessie, the Kelpies and of course, the angel.
Other products include mini Glencairn glasses, a hot toddy set, a unique whisky tasting glass and, making use of their waste product empty whisky bottles, whisky scented candles, and more.
The Angels' Share Whisky Angel is now design protected and continues to reach new heights with US distributorship opening this month at a trade show in New York. The company also has created its own collectables market by creating "special editions" around various seasonal themes, and even more rare "limited" editions of only 25 pieces, like the St. Andrews Day Johnnie Walker Blue Label angel.
The St. Andrew's Day limited edition angel featured blue wings, Saltire badging, its own oak whisky cask, and was filled with a dram of Johnnie Walker Blue Label scotch whisky.
The company does bespoke work, corporate gifts and more. They were selected to create a special gift set, now very rare, for the 2014 Commonwealth Games held in Glasgow, the set consisting of three angels with gold, silver, and bronze halos.
Not content with their success so far, Karen says they are keeping a close eye on the resurging gin market in Scotland as inspiration of a possible expansion of their product line. And who knows, maybe they'll take my suggestion of a glass Nessie filled with Loch Ness water and run, erm, swim with it!