As anyone interested in whisky knows, the “angels’ share” is the amount of the spirit that will be lost to evaporation during the time that the spirit is aged. The amount the angels consume depends on a host of factors, including the length of time it is in the barrel, the porosity of the wood making up the barrel, temperature changes, the overall thirstiness of the angels, etc.
What isn’t quite so variable is the “Feds’ share” – by which I mean the amount of the excise tax that must be paid to the federal government in connection with the manufacture of spirits. The tax is calculated on the basis of “proof gallons” – which is simply a measure of the proof of the spirit (noted as a percentage) multiplied by the volume produced.
Here’s an example, suppose you produce and bottle 50 gallons of bourbon that comes out right at 80 proof. You’ve just made 40 proof gallons of bourbon (50 x 0.8). And for your trouble in making those 40 proof gallons, you get the added pleasure of owing a federal excise tax equal (at the current tax rate of $13.50 per proof gallon) to $540.
Assuming you package this nectar in 750ml bottles, you’re looking at roughly 252 bottles – with a federal excise tax of about $2.14 per bottle.
If your hooch was higher proof, the tax per bottle would be as well. And if your stuff was lower proof, the tax would be lower. But would you really want whisky at less than 80 proof?
Depending on the whiskey you can’t bottle at less than 80 proof and still call it bourbon, Tennessee whiskey or a myriad of other styles.
Very true. And in fact the predominant trend is toward higher proof bottles rather than allowing the spirit to come in at the legal minimum.