The Angels’ Share

When you think of angels, you think of harps, don’t you? Of course you do… Well, apparently, some people think of whisky! If you look on the Glenlivet Distillery website, you’ll find this explanation for the expression which is the title of today’s post:

. . . One of the terms you’ll often hear in whisky distilleries is the angels’ share. When whisky is slowly maturing in its cask, a small amount of whisky evaporates through the wood and into the atmosphere. Each year, roughly 2% of the liquid leaves the cask this way, so over the years we’ve come to think of this as a sacrifice to the heavens. By giving the angels their share, we ensure the whisky is the best it can possibly be when it’s bottled. Why this happens and what we can do about it is just one of the more complex jobs for our Master Distiller to contend with . . .

Susan Nares has given us another sublime piece on her harp, and its title is Glenlivet:


And – yes – the tune is all about whisky! It was written by the famous Scottish fiddler and composer James Scott Skinner (1843 – 1927). His father William Skinner was a dancing master on Deeside, Aberdeen, and James followed in his footsteps, also becoming a dancing master – which earned him his living – and musician, playing traditional and classical tunes. His fame spread as far as the royal circle in Balmoral where, by 1868, he had 125 pupils in Queen Victoria’s household learning dancing and callisthenics from him. Eventually he became famous as a fiddler throughout Scotland and America, where he toured and recorded on wax cylinders. To cut what could be a long story short, his favourite Whisky was Glenlivet – and he wrote the tune to celebrate it! (Incidentally, it was also Charles Dicken’s favourite).

The Glenlivet Distillery is still situated in the same glen in Ballindalloch, Banffshire where in 1822 George Smith began, illicitly, to practice his craft

This is Susan’s own arrangement of the tune: listen out for those harmonics, which must be tricky to play but sound wonderful. Many thanks, Susie.

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