August 2017 by Michael Pendley
Lincoln Henderson spent a lifetime in the distilling industry. The man knew whiskey. During his nearly 40-year tenure at Brown-Forman, Lincoln oversaw the development of Gentleman Jack and Woodford Reserve. As Master Distiller, he oversaw countless barrels of whiskey from mash to bottle.
When Lincoln retired from Brown-Forman in 2004, making whiskey was still on his mind. In April of 2011, Lincoln, along with his son Wes, launched Angel’s Envy. The brand was named after the iconic Angel’s Share, the bourbon that is lost through evaporation from each barrel during the long aging process. Soon after, Wes’s son Kyle joined the fold. The fledgling whiskey company soon began renovating the historic American Elevator & Machine Company Building, constructed in 1902, in downtown Louisville, KY.
Today, the distillery covers 90,000 square feet and has the capacity to mash 970 bushels of grain per day. They can run 25 gallons of fermented mash per minute in 35-ft tall Vendome Column Still and hold 13,565 gallons in 4 fermenters for a total production capacity of 72 barrels per day.
Lincoln and Wes had the idea to experiment with high quality Kentucky straight bourbon and rye finished in different woods. For the bourbon, they settled on ruby port casks. For the rye, the duo decided on used Caribbean rum barrels. The whiskey would age in the standard oak barrels for 5 to 7 years, then get transferred to the port and rum casks to continue aging anywhere from 6 to 18 additional months.
Unfortunately, Lincoln didn’t live to see the first bottles of Angel’s Envy. He passed away in the Fall of 2013, shortly after breaking ground on the new distillery, but his fingerprints are all over the brand. From the yeast in the mash bill to the barrels the bourbon ages in, he used his lifetime of experience to make this brand entirely his.
While bottle and label design doesn’t normally factor into my bourbon choice, I do admit that Angel’s Envy does have a cool jug. The heavy based, upright teardrop shaped bottle is adorned with simple label and a set of Angel wings that make it stand out on the shelf.
Angel’s Envy Bourbon
Mash Bill: 72% corn, 18% rye and 10% malted barley, all of which are non-genetically modified and locally-sourced.
Color: Light golden amber, almost butterscotch
Nose: Floral, sweet, light fruit, light wood, faint vanilla and wine
Palate: Sweetness with a light burn at the front of the tongue. The floral and fruit carry through, cherries perhaps, with vanilla and light wood coming through near the end.
Finish: Light rye burn starts out with lots of cinnamon spice, but fades quickly into a mellow corn and vanilla that linger with a light citrus.
Notes: My bourbon tastes tend to trend more to the sweeter, softer whiskeys. Angel’s Envy fits this bill well. The fruitiness from the port barrels compliments the bourbon. At just over 86 proof, this one makes a fine sipper neat, or with a single ice cube. Not particularly complex, but the port finish makes Angels Envy interesting. This would be an exceptional choice for new bourbon drinkers.
Angel’s Envy Rye
Mash Bill: 95% rye and 5% malted barley. The rye is sourced, most likely from MGP
Color: Light reddish golden amber, very clear. Strong legs
Nose: The first thing that hits me with this rye is crème brulee, caramel, and strong oak. Vanilla and butterscotch soon come through. Cheryl said she picked up Candleberry’s Hot Maple Toddy Candle.
Palate: The nose doesn’t lie. Sweet caramel hits with the first sip, brown sugar, toasted marshmallow, oaky wood, very light fruit and rum sugar cane toward the end. I picked up Bananas Foster at the end.
Finish: The sweetness masks the traditional hotter finish of rye. That sweetness lingers in my mouth and the finish doesn’t last as long as I wish it would. Warm, but not as hot as you would expect from a 95% rye.
Notes: As noted above, my tastes tend to trend to sweeter, softer bourbons. Because of that, I don’t drink a lot of rye. This one changes my mind. It might be my favorite rye of all time. Perfect as a nightcap after dinner in place of, or alongside, dessert.
Some might question the value of the Rye, and, at around $90, it is considerably more expensive than other sourced ryes of the same age. The uniqueness of the rum finish and the overall richness of the bottle make it worth it for me. Will I drink it all the time? No, the hefty price tag will limit it to special occasions, but I will definitely keep a bottle around.
A definite winner and one to add to your bar. With only two releases per year, this one can be hard to find, but it is well worth the hunt.
Michael Pendley lives in the heart of central Kentucky’s bourbon country. When he isn’t poking around local distilleries, he can usually be found searching for dusty bottles of old whiskey that might be hidden in the back rooms of liquor stores. He, along with his wife and three children, are very active in the outdoors. Michael also writes the twice-weekly wild game cooking blog Timber2Table at Realtree.com