A university team that helped develop arguably the world's most efficient whisky barrel is raising a glass after winning a prestigious royal award.

Cutting edge technology was used to create a whisky cask that minimises loss through evaporation during the all-important maturing process which should be at least three years but can take decades.

Up to a fifth of a cask of whisky can be lost during maturation - known as the angels' share - but Edinburgh Napier University's Centre for Timber Engineering helped develop a barrel that minimises this yet does not compromise the quality of the spirit.

HeraldScotland: Prof: Angels' share cut after whisky barrel breakthrough

Exactly how effective the process is will take a total of 10 years - the full test period - to establish, although early indications are that the intervention that involved meticulous examination of the behaviour of wood - no glue is employed in the traditional processes which are being religiously maintained - will greatly reduce evaporation.

Between two and 20 per cent of a barrel, starting at around £2,000, is shared with the angels.

But while still maturing itself, this project and others including the athletes' village for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014 have secured the university the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for its internationally acclaimed work in timber engineering, sustainable construction and wood science.

Professor Abdy Kermani said that after working with experts at drinks giant Diageo, waste through evaporation is being reduced significantly.

He said: "We were approached by Diageo to have a look at the 'angels' share'.

"We worked using the existing cask and improved that so that the reduction was at an absolute minimum."

He said while it "may not secure him entry to heaven", the innovation his team helped create will bolster the £5bn Scotch whisky industry that supports 40,300 UK jobs.

A Diageo spokesman said: “High quality oak casks are crucial in the maturation of quality Scotch whisky, with the interaction of the spirit and the cask as the whisky matures having a vital influence on the final whisky.

“We put a lot of effort and investment into how we prepare and manage our casks to ensure we produce the highest quality Scotch Whisky.

HeraldScotland: Prof: Angels' share cut after whisky barrel breakthrough

"The focus of the work with Napier University was new research into the maturation process designed to optimise the use of the traditional oak casks we use to mature our Scotch whiskies.

"We also invested £10 million in a new state-of-the-art cooperage to create the best possible environment for our skilled coopers to craft our oak casks.”

Rosemary Gallagher, of the Scotch Whisky Association, said: "Scotch derives a lot of its colour and flavour from the cask.

"The new spirit is filled into oak casks which being permeable allow air in and some evaporation takes place, leading to the ‘angels’ share’.

"This interaction between the air and the spirit is essential in creating the final flavour profile."

The Angels' Share was recently a hit movie by director Ken Loach starring Paul Brannigan as a troubled youth who uses his charm to help steal a rare whisky.

Research staff at Napier have delivered a series of high-impact projects, including industry consortia using the university’s research findings to help in the design and construction of the award-winning athletes’ village for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Professor Andrea Nolan, Principal and Vice Chancellor of Edinburgh Napier University, said: “It is recognition of the impact of our research nationally and internationally on business, industry, environment and society."

Professor Sean Smith, Director of Edinburgh Napier’s Institute for Sustainable Construction, said that, globally, timber is "increasingly being used in the construction of new buildings due to its inherent sustainable properties".