Technical Information

Glossary

Angel's Share

During the process of maturation, the amount of bulk litres and litres of alcohol in a cask of whisky decreases. This process is known as the Angel’s Share Loss and is estimated to occur at a rate of 2-6% per annum plus 2% for a standard hogshead and on occasion this may be more. Read more on this subject.

 

Barrel

A barrel is a type of cask used for the maturation of Scotch whisky. Barrels contain approximately 200 bulk litres, of which 125 litres is alcohol, the remainder being water.

 

Bonded Warehouse

A bonded warehouse is a building in which goods on which duty must be paid (e.g. Scotch whisky) may be stored, manipulated, or undergo manufacturing operations without payment of duty.

 

Butt

A butt is the largest type of cask used for the maturation of Scotch whisky. It contains approximately 500 bulk litres, of which 314 litres is alcohol, the remainder being water. Butts, while being the same size as puncheons, differ in shape.

 

Certificate of Title

When cask whisky is purchased it can often be left in bond with the supplier while it continues to mature. When this happens, a Certificate of Title is issued.

 

Delivery Order

When cask whisky is purchased the customer can take responsibility for your his or her own cask(s). When this happens, a Delivery Order is issued.

This transfers the ownership of whisky in bond. It is issued by the selling party and addressed to the distillery where the cask(s) are lying. It is endorsed (signed) by the new owner. All warehouse rents and charges become the responsibility of the new owner from the date of the Delivery Order.

 

Excise Movement and Control System (EMCS)

Excise Movement and Control System (EMCS) is a computer system which captures and processes information in respect of all movements of excise goods in duty suspension within the European Union (EU).

 

Hogshead

A hogshead is a type of cask used for the maturation of whisky. Hogsheads contain approximately 250 bulk litres, of which 157 litres is alcohol, the remainder being water. A hogshead is probably the most common cask size used in whisky maturation.

 

HMRC Duty Representative

A duty representative is an individual or an organisation who can:

  • act as an agent on behalf of individuals or organisations within the EU to arrange for goods on which duty must be paid (e.g. Scotch whisky) to be held in an excise warehouse

  • act as agent for the buyer of relevant goods that are held in an excise warehouse.

 

IBCs and ISO tanks

IBCs are intermediate bulk containers used for transporting or storing fluids or bulk materials (e.g. Scotch whisky). IBCs can be constructed from plastic, steel or stainless steel. They are typically cubic in shape for ease and efficiency of transportation.

ISO tanks are steel containers held within a standard ISO (International Standards Organization) frame. The standard size is 6.1 x 2.4 x 2.6 metres, which holds up to 25,000 litres of bulk liquid.

 

Octave

An octave is the smallest type of cask used for the maturation of Scotch whisky. Octaves contain approximately 50 bulk litres, of which 32 litres is alcohol, the remainder being water. An octave is sometimes called a quarter cask.

 

Original Litres of Alcohol (OLA)

The amount of alcohol first filled into a cask is known as the Original Litres of Alcohol or OLA. (Note that, especially in mainland Europe, OLA is sometimes referred to as LOA.) Younger whiskies tend to be bought on an OLA basis and assumes that the Angel's Share Loss will be roughly as expected. Read more on this subject.

 

Puncheon

A puncheon is the largest type of cask used for the maturation of Scotch whisky. It contains approximately 500 bulk litres, of which 314 litres is alcohol, the remainder being water. Puncheons, while being the same size as butts, differ in shape.

 

Regauged Litres of Alcohol (RLA)

After a period of maturation, the amount of bulk litres and litres of alcohol in a cask of whisky will have decreased due to the Angel's Share Loss. When the contents of a cask are re-measured (re-gauged), the number of litres found to be remaining in the cask is known as the Regauged Litres of Alcohol or RLA. Whiskies over 15 years of age tend to be bought on an RLA basis, which lets you know exactly how many litres of alcohol remain in the casks you are buying. Read more on this subject.

 

Single Administrative Document (SAD) – C88

Import details are usually collected through the submission to HMRC, of the Single Administrative Document (SAD). This document, in the same format, is used throughout the EC to declare imports – each EC country having it printed in their own language. In the UK it is known as form C88.

 

UK Bond Movement Guarantee

Excise goods that are being dispatched in duty suspension (e.g. Scotch whisky being transported from a bonded warehouse to a bottlers) must be covered by a financial security in the form of a movement guarantee. The guarantor undertakes to pay money to HMRC if an irregularity occurs, or is deemed to occur, during a movement of excise goods in duty-suspension.

 

WOWGR

WOWGR stands for Warehousekeepers and Owners of Warehoused Goods Regulations 1999.

An authorized warehousekeeper can:

  • receive goods on which duty must be paid (e.g. Scotch whisky) at his excise warehouse and keep them there

  • carry out operations on goods on which duty must be paid in his excise warehouse

  • remove goods on which duty must be paid from his excise warehouse.

These rights apply to goods on which duty must be paid that he owns and that are owned by others.

A registered owner can:

  • hold goods on which duty must be paid that he owns in an excise warehouse

  • buy goods on which duty must be paid that are held in an excise warehouse.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Angel's Share Loss Explained

 

In the Scotch whisky industry, new ‘whisky’ (at an alcohol strength of around 63.5%) is filled into butts, hogsheads or barrels. Each of these different-sized casks are filled to an industry average.

  • Butts contain approximately 500 bulk litres, of which 314 litres is alcohol, the remainder being water.

  • Hogsheads contain approximately 250 bulk litres, of which 157 litres is alcohol.

  • Barrels contain approximately 200 bulk litres, of which 125 litres is alcohol.

These are very approximate figures, but provide a useful guide.

The amount of alcohol first filled into a cask is known as the Original Litres of Alcohol (OLA). (Note that, especially in mainland Europe, OLA is sometimes referred to as LOA.) During the process of maturation, the amount of bulk litres and litres of alcohol decreases and the alcoholic strength also reduces.

The decrease in bulk litres and litres of alcohol is known as the Angel’s Share Loss and is estimated to occur at a rate of 2-6% per annum plus 2% for a standard hogshead and on occasion this may be more. Again, this is an approximate estimate and does not apply evenly across the life of the cask, but provides a useful guide.

When the contents of a cask are re-measured (re-gauged), the number of litres found to be remaining in the cask is known as the Regauged Litres of Alcohol (RLA).

When buying cask whisky, you can buy on an OLA or RLA basis. When you buy on an OLA basis, you take the risk that the Angel’s Share Loss will be roughly as expected. This basis of buying is more appropriate for younger whisky.

However, when buying older whisky, especially whiskies over 15 years old, it is often thought to be more suitable to buy on an RLA basis. This basis of buying lets you know exactly how many litres of alcohol remain in the casks you are buying.

Choosing a Bottling Strength

 

Whisky is filled into casks, when new, at around 63.5% volume. It evaporates at the rate, very approximately, of 2-6% per annum plus 2% for a standard hogshead and on occasion this may be more (‘The Angel’s Share’). At the same time as the bulk spirit evaporates during the maturation process, the alcoholic strength will also slightly decrease.

Most commercially available whisky is sold at 40% volume; having been reduced in strength by adding water and chill filtered to make the whisky look clear and bright. The addition of water makes the whisky appear cloudy; chill filtering counters this effect. However, if you want to maintain maximum taste and subtlety of your whisky then chill filtering should be avoided as it tends to removes the products in the whisky that carry much of the flavour and character of the malt. If you want the maximum taste and a virtually guaranteed clear bright whisky you will need to consider bottling at 46% as a minimum strength. Some people bottle at 50% or, as is becoming more popular, choose to bottle (after a basic filtering process) at cask strength. Cask strength whisky can occasionally throw a slight deposit in future years, in the same way as fine wine can.

To chill filter or not to chill filter?

 

If you dilute the strength of your whisky to a point where it starts to go cloudy this will not usually be a problem for knowledgeable whisky drinkers who appreciate the subtlety of natural malts. The more you dilute whisky with water the cloudier it becomes. Sometimes this cloud will "flocculate", that is to say develop tiny particles, which resemble cotton wool in suspension. It still tastes great but anyone "not in the know" will assume that the whisky is faulty!

It’s worth remembering that for a large number of whisky drinkers it is important that a whisky looks ‘good’ in the glass. This is why we recommend bottling at 46% and above. This said, we suggest that if you want a clean looking whisky and you intend to bottle your whisky significantly below 46% then you should try to avoid flocculation by chill filtering your whisky.

One obvious benefit to be gained by bottling at 40% is that you get more bottles from your cask because the more you dilute your cask whisky with water in the bottling process the more bottles are produced. Choosing the standard 40% bottling strength will maximise the number of bottles you produced from your cask but chill filtering will potential take away some of the indefinable character of your cask of malt whisky – and remember each cask is unique.

 

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