Wednesday, 11 May 2011

The Angels' Share

 Recently I was very fortunate to visit Scotland once more, a place for which I have tremendous affection and not only because most of my bloodline can be traced from North of the border. Whilst there I visited a remote distillery and took the conducted tour, something I’ve never done before. It was fascinating to observe the Whisky production and learn that business was booming as India, China and Brazil in particular became much more powerful economically thus pushing up demand for this amber ‘Water of Life’ (as the Gael has it). Thus of course, also pushing up the price
            And we were confronted with graphic evidence of the Economic value of this trade in one of the warehouses where the whisky was left to mature for at least ten years in old sherry and bourbon casks. Some of the barrels contained whisky that was over 35 years old and which when bottled would be sold for nearly £1000 a bottle! Put another way, each one of the small line of barrels containing this older whisky would sell for about £200,000.

Whilst our heads spun at the thought of monetary value of so much whisky - (the warehouse was about 15 feet high or so and stacked to the rafters and back into the murky depths with barrels) – our heads were also probably spinning for another reason. For, over a ten year period we were told , about 20% of the whisky evaporated from the barrels through the oak. Our tour guide told us that this was called ‘The Angels Share’ and they were more than happy for the angels to have it. I found this at once a charming and liberating thought – just happy to let it go. This attitude seemed to me to epitomize a certain easy freedom amongst the people of those remote parts I had noticed before. But easy freedom was not on everyone’s mind . . .

Just at the end of the tour one of the American guests asked, ‘With all this whisky lying in here, what do you do for security?’ The guide laughed 'Ah! the whole place is covered night and day by security cameras and plain clothed security are mingling with you right now'. He said it light heartedly for it plainly wasn’t true. The doors were wide open and there wasn’t a camera in sight. He then went ‘well the place is very remote, few people live here, I guess anything suspicious would be seen and of course, the angels get their share’

Well of course folk laughed at this idea of a sort of heavenly protection racket – but I must admit I found it rather a beautiful idea – for it seemed to me that it spoke to the very heart of Life and Abundant Life at that. That Life is all Gift and Giving, that true life is found in mutual exchange. The angels no doubt rejoice in the freedom of these people and their easy approach to security and are thus happy to keep an eye on the place, shrouding it in fog or gales on the odd occasion something nefarious is afoot. The distillers are genuinely happy to let the angels have their share – there seemed to be none of the talk of ‘research into ways to minimize losses’ which seems to characterize most if not all business practices today. None of that tight and anxious clinging onto what we have. Just an easy freedom, easy go and easy come. It was a beautiful lesson. 

For in letting our barriers down, our fears about security, we are able both to give and receive – in other words to be truly free. This freedom is seen in Jesus who richly enjoys life and then lays it down only for life in abundance to pour forth. He who taught us ‘Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.’ showed us the Way in his own life. The good folk of this distillery seemed to have heard his words and joined that angelic dance of mutual Giving  - the dance we know as Love.