The Angels Share is a lovely term used in the Cognac industry to describe a particular phenomenon. It’s a necessary but costly by-product of Cognac making. You will inevitably hear about it from your guide when you visit a Cognac distillery. It’s fun to know about it, because whatever you’re doing in Cognac the closer you are to a distillery, the more you are enjoying your share of the Angels Share!
It’s the amount of liquor that evaporates through the walls of the oak barrels in cellars as the Cognac matures over the years before it’s bottled. Every year, about 3% leaves the barrel and enters the atmosphere! This equates to a loss of about 25 million bottles. Think about the cost to the industry – with Cognac retailing at anything from €30 to €20,000 per litre, this is a heavy price to pay.
You can see it too. There’s a microscopic fungus that also enjoys its share. This lives on the walls of buildings in the Cognac and Charente region and feeds on the alcohol. The result is zillions of spores that make the normally white stone walls go black. So the close you are to a distillery, or Cognac cellar, the more you will see it.
Despite the cost, Cognac makers actually love giving the angels a share. This is because it is part of the maturation process which concentrates the flavours that distinguish Cognac brandy. The liquor in the barrels before it turns into the final Cognac product is known locally as ‘eaux de vie’. The main components of this are alcohol and water, which make up most of the Angels Share, leaving all the goodness and flavours behind.
Personally, I absolutely love the Cognac aromas in the air that the angels share produces. Hopefully you will too when you go on your first distillery tour to a Cognac house.