Angel’s Envy is by far one of the most unique-tasting bourbons in the American whiskey market today. Steeped in a history of expert distilling, it has successfully secured its place on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
The New Angel's Envy Distillery
Not long ago, a Master Distiller named Lincoln Henderson worked for Brown-Forman for a number of years. In that time, he helped introduce the world to his pet projects, Woodford Reserve and Gentleman Jack. As one of the inaugural inductees of Kentucky’s Bourbon Hall of Fame, Lincoln shared his wealth of whiskey knowledge with his son and grandson among a community of local distillers. It wasn’t long after he retired that he decided to create something new and special, independently.
According to the Angel’s Envy site: “The 5% of spirit lost each year during barrel aging is called the ‘Angel’s Share.’ After tasting our finished whiskey, Lincoln joked that we’d finally gotten a better deal than the angels. And so Angel’s Envy was born.”
With his son, Wes Henderson, Angel’s Envy grew as its own separate distillery. Wes’ love of whiskey in the heart of bourbon country combined with his father’s nearly forty years of spirits expertise resulted in unparalleled flavor from every barrel. Today, Lincoln’s purported little black book of ideas is consulted by Wes and his son, Kyle.
Sommeliers know that scotch has been matured in Port barrels for ages. It was the Hendersons’ idea to use them for their new whiskey. Angel’s Envy comes in three primary varieties, but the first is a Kentucky Straight Bourbon. A regular straight bourbon must be aged at least two years, and labelled if aged fewer than four years. Using a mash of 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% malted barley, Angel’s Envy is aged four to six years in 53-gallon American white oak barrels. It is then blended and moved to 60-gallon Port barrels to be aged up to six more months in classic “double maturation” style. At the end of six months, the bourbon is blended again at 8-12 barrels at a time.
As a result, each bottle contains an 86.6 proof of pure, complex flavor. It takes a true whiskey lover to appreciate the subtle sweet notes, the transitions of taste on the tongue, and the unadulterated finish that leaves the mouth both desiring more and savoring every drop. In fact, suggested cocktails on the Angel’s Envy website are listed specifically to help the connoisseur enjoy its multiple facets.
The buck doesn’t stop there. Angel’s Envy Rye also goes through the same rigorous process, but is finished instead in Caribbean rum casks for up to 18 months. The rum casks allow for a reddish color liquid with sherry, citrus, vanilla, and warm autumnal scents. On the tongue the finish is sweet, dry, and easy. A bartender would have a field day creating variations on a Manhattan with this rye, as its versatility lends itself to crowd-pleasing flavors for everyone’s palate.
The so-called “malcontented” “perfectionists” continued with Cask Strength. At 124.6 proof, it is the distillery’s strongest bourbon. The process is much the same as the original Straight Bourbon, but the Cask Strength is aged even longer in the Port barrels. It is suggested to be enjoyed neat or with just a splash of water. Why? To enjoy the full effect of the rich, buttery finish after an aromatic combination of earthy, floral, and mildly spicy notes. This limited edition bourbon is not to be taken lightly.
With the highest of accolades pouring in from numerous sources, Angel’s Envy decided to open its doors to the public for tours and additional sales. In November of 2016, the downtown Louisville distillery’s staff began to welcome all who wished to learn about their seminal style of bourbon creation. And as of February 2017, it became the tenth stop on Kentucky’s own Bourbon Trail. The recent boom in the whiskey business has created thousands of jobs as a burgeoning tourist attraction in the area, and the Hendersons are proud to be alongside their distillery mentors.
Now, visitors to the Angel’s Envy building are treated to one of the best tours on the Trail, complete with a gift shop and self-proclaimed “whiskey nerds.” At ten slots per hour-long tour, guests learn the history of Angel’s Envy along with the entire bourbon-making process, from barrel to finished product. The tour ends at The Finishing Room, a bar where tastings are held specifically to educate drinkers on the full flavor of each variety.
Especially intriguing is that the equipment used for the distillery was hand-designed, crafted, and implemented with the help of Kevin Curtis, Distillery Operations Manager. As folks traverse the guided tour, they gain a new appreciation not only for Angel’s Envy’s particular process, but for the history of a close-knit business immersed in Louisville and the tireless dedication it took to create a wholly special bourbon. From Lincoln’s childhood spent with his father in the same Main Street building to Kyle Henderson’s production management, the family business offers the whiskey world a truly American experience.