“Before I started up my business, I didn’t know an awful lot about whisky and wasn’t that keen on it. Now I love it!” – Karen Somerville
Karen Somerville is the founder of Angels’ Share Glass, which specialises in handcrafted glass artefacts relating to whisky.
In this Whisky Women interview, she speaks about starting a business, winning a Chamber of Commerce Award and falling for whisky.
How did the business come about?
I was watching the movie `The Angels’ Share’ when I had something of a ‘eureka’ moment! The film is named after the myth of the ‘Angels’ Share’ – the small portion of a whisky’s volume lost to evaporation during ageing in oak barrels which distillers believe is taken away by angels. I was inspired to bring this romantic fable to life and persuaded my dad Tom Young, a world renowned glass blower, to come out of retirement and help me. We ended up creating our unique whisky glassware – beautiful glass angels filled and sealed with a measure of the Angels’ Share in a secret process known only to our glassmakers. Now they are in demand all over the world!
Do you work directly with distilleries?
Yes, we have a good relationship with a number of distilleries who stock our products including the Edrington Group which includes brand Macallan and the Famous Grouse and Diageo whose whiskies include Glenkinchie and Blair Atholl. We also work with independents such as Isle of Arran Distillers and Wemyss Malts.
What whiskies got you interested in the spirit?
Before I started up my business, I didn’t know an awful lot about whisky and wasn’t that keen on it. Now I love it! I began to learn about whiskies during events, tastings and festivals and have developed a taste for sherry cask whiskies. My favourite is Aberlour A’bunadh.
Both whisky and Angels’ Share Glass have elements of craftsmanship about them – do you think this is why they pair well?
Definitely! There’s a real heritage and craftsmanship to both whisky and our glassblowing enterprise which ties them together nicely. Plus my Dad has a long history with the whisky industry – he made glass pens to accompany every bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label Whisky on its launch many years ago and many of Scotland’s Spirits Safes have glass bowls made by him. It’s wonderful to think he’s back working with glass and whisky again and to see how we’ve come full circle.
You’ve recently won a Chamber of Commerce award for entrepreneurship – what was the highlight of winning that?
I had to give a presentation about Angels’ Share Glass and how the company has evolved as part of the awards process. Talking about our journey to an audience made me realise just how far we had come in such a short space of time. It was wonderful to have the recognition of my peers and an affirmation of all the hard work we had put in over the previous two years.
We’re now being recognised as a top quality producer of whisky-related glassware and I want people to know there is something to suit every taste and budget. We’ve lots of unique and innovative gifts available and I’d encourage them to take a look at our website and see!
What’s your favourite part of what you do?
I love it all! But I particularly enjoy getting out and about and meeting people at trade events, whisky festivals, tastings and so on. It’s great to get feedback from the distillery companies about how popular our products are and from individual customers who tell us how much they love our Angels!
Do you think more women should or could work in whisky/whisky related businesses?
I do indeed. I think there are more opportunities nowadays for women to get involved and the industry is not as male-dominated as it once was. There is much more choice now when it comes to the different whiskies and bottles which are available and it’s definitely an area where women can flourish.
What’s one of your favourite memories involving whisky?
This has to be a recent experience at the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival when we were invited to give a glass-blowing demonstration to the public by the Macallan Distillery. It was a fantastic experience and lovely to see my Dad in action. We had a great response from the people who watched and the Festival was a fantastic celebration for the whole whisky industry. It was a day I will never forget!