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It is February, and not only is it the month we celebrate Valentine's Day, but this year is also a leap year, giving you an extra day to enjoy a dram. But of course, this is a whiskey and bourbon blog, so get ready for some whiskey love! In this article, we cover some distillation processes, a film, and a whiskey-based Valentine's Cocktail.

Starting with an obvious link to whiskey (but not necessarily bourbon), we will begin with ‘The HEART Cut.’

What is the Heart cut?

While making whiskey/whisky, there comes the point where a distiller will decide which part of the spirit will go into the cask for maturation and which won't. These points are called 'cuts' and are called 'Head, Heart and Tails.’

In the distillation process, as the liquid in the still is heated, it releases particles (vapors) which rise to the condenser, where it cools and becomes a liquid again. This liquid is high in ethanol and contains certain flavor compounds. As liquid heating continues and the temperature rises, more vapors are released, and more flavors and aromas arise.

The vapor released at lower temperatures will contain particles that smell like solvents and compounds like methanol and light esters. This section of the process is the “heads.” It's not the nicest of aromas, and too many of certain compounds would be toxic, so removing them as far as possible is good practice. The distiller will decide where within the run of heads to cut before the heart of the spirit comes through. Once they decide while the liquid flows, the distiller will move the flow from one container to another. This next container will be for the ‘heart’ section of the spirit run. This is the part that will go into casks for maturation.

Lastly, as the run continues, the amount of alcohol particles reduce and flavors and aromas will change, becoming a little bitter and we also get fusel alcohol particles. (Fusel, German for bad liquor, gives the feel of cheap alcohol and a hot/sharp alcohol flavor). So again, the distiller decides where to ‘cut’ the spirit flow and moves it to another container.

Essentially, the distiller decides what part of the flow of the spirit is the best for flavor and aroma and, therefore, will make the best whiskey.

The head and tails left over may be returned to the process to be distilled again or disposed of.

As noted at the beginning of this article, this process does not apply to Bourbon production. This is due to the use of column stills, which will remove the three sections simultaneously during production.

So now the heart of the spirit sits in the casks, in a dunnage/warehouse, and matures, taking on the flavors of the cask, which brings us the next Valentine's tenuous link, angels.

Angels are associated with love and loved ones, and yes, angels are associated with whiskey production.

The Angels Share

During maturation, some of the liquid inside the casks is lost through evaporation. This loss is known as 'the angel's share'; in Kentucky, for example, it ranges from 2% to 10% in its first year.

Product loss through evaporation varies globally depending on the time in the cask, cask type (size and wood used), and ambient temperature. For example, whisky in cask in Scotland will mature slower than in Kentucky. Liquid of the same age will look different and taste different. So, be wary of judging a dram by its age and color; you could be missing some great whiskey!

In 2012, a film called "The Angels Share” was released and is worth watching with dram in hand. The Angels' Share - Wikipedia

A cocktail for your Valentine

The Cranberry Manhattan.

Not only does it look “lovely,” but it's simple and easy to make, giving you more time to enjoy it than make it.

You will need:

2 ounces whiskey (rye will give a nice spice to this)

½ ounce sweet vermouth

½ ounce cranberry juice

Orange bitters

Orange peel/cranberries for garnish (optional)


Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice and add all the ingredients. Shake for 15 seconds, then strain into a martini-style glass (but any will do; we're not going to judge), then garnish and serve.

Lastly, of course, you may wish to give your loved ones a gift for Valentine's Day, and what better for a whiskey lover than giving them a bottle of whiskey you know they will enjoy? Well, giving them a bottle from your cask is better! Not only is it more personal, but with Barrel Global, we can also assist you with labelling and bottling, so do contact our team, who will gladly guide you through the process of barrel ownership.

We are on a mission to make whiskey barrel ownership accessible to collectors worldwide. As the first-ever global marketplace for whiskey barrels, you can connect with distilleries and collectors worldwide to build your own portfolio. For a whiskey experience unlike any other, request access today.