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Scottish scientists reduce ‘angel’s share’

A team of scientists at Edinburgh Napier University has received an award for developing a whisky barrel that reduces the share of spirit lost to evaporation, known as the “angel’s share”.

As much as 20% of the contents of a whisky barrel can be lost to the angels depending on the length of time it spends ageing (Photo: Wiki)
As much as 20% of the contents of a whisky barrel can be lost to the angels depending on the length of time it spends ageing (Photo: Wiki)

Without adding any other material like glue to the wood, the team of scientists from the university’s Centre for Timber Engineering were able to build a barrel that reduces evaporation without compromising the quality of the whisky.

The scientists, led by professor Abdy Kermani, were awarded on behalf of Napier University along with 21 other higher education institutions as recipients of The Queen’s Anniversary Prizes for Higher and Further Education.

Professor Kermani told The Herald: “We worked using the existing cask and improved that so that the reduction was at an absolute minimum.”

As much as a fifth of the whisky in a barrel can be lost through evaporation depending on the length of time it spends ageing.

It is not yet fully known how much whisky the newly developed barrel will save from evaporation given that the whisky it contains will be aged for 10 years.

The research into barrel construction was funded by global drinks producer Diageo, which has a large stake in the Scotch whisky industry, owning the Johnnie Walker and Bell’s brands.

A Diageo spokesman said: “High quality oak casks are crucial in the maturation of quality Scotch whisky, with the interaction of the spirit and the cask as the whisky matures having a vital influence on the final whisky.

“The focus of the work with Napier University was new research into the maturation process designed to optimise the use of the traditional oak casks we use to mature our Scotch whiskies.”

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