Since its first port-cask finished bourbon hit the market six years ago, Angel’s Envy has rapidly become one of America’s most popular small batch whiskey brands. And as of November, it finally has its own distillery near Louisville’s historic Whiskey Row.
Four years ago, when its parent company, the Louisville Distilling Co., took possession of what was a derelict tool factory building, it estimated the cost for the distillery at $12 million. When finished in October, the cost had doubled to $27 million, a sum subsidized considerably, for sure, by LDC’s owner, spirits giant Bacardi.
The final result is a sleek 100,000 square-foot, ultramodern plant with a fully computerized distilling operation tailor-made for tourism. Posted and painted throughout the facility are nuggets of knowledge helpful to whiskey novices and experts eager for info.
Some 200 guests were invited for an early look at the operation, which will open officially Saturday, November 19. But sadly, among the half dozen people who spoke at the event, one wasn’t Angel’s Envy co-founder Lincoln Henderson. The legendary Brown-Forman master distiller who helped develop Woodford Reserve died three years ago at age 75, his final dream not yet realized. The event was an emotional one for his son, Wes Henderson, co-founder and chief innovation officer at LDC, who praised his late father’s passion for whiskey making.
“Dad would be, without question, proud” of the new distillery, said Henderson. “Dad was always a guy who’d give others credit. He’d say it was a job well done. But I’d say to him, ‘We did it together.’”
The spacious distillery includes a single cooker, four fermenters, and a 35-foot-tall copper column still and doubler made by Louisville’s Vendome Brass & Copper Works. According to Henderson, the facility can produce enough distillate to fill 80 53-gallon barrels per day.
We can eventually do “about a million cases a year out of this building,” he said. “This year we’ll go 120,000 cases, give or take.”
Its onsite bottling machinery has not been installed.
Angel’s Envy on the market now is contract distilled by an undisclosed provider. Drinkers won’t get a taste of bourbon made at the new site until at least 2020. That whiskey will be aged in an existing 18,000-barrel rickhouse in Shively, a Louisville suburb, and Henderson said others are under construction in the area.
The distillery currently makes two products from two mash bills: bourbon that’ll be aged four to six years in new oak and six months in port barrels (one is 86-proof, another is cask strength); and an eight-year-old rye in new oak followed by 18 months in rum barrels. And as the operation works out any early kinks, Henderson envisions new products will emerge.
“Opening a new distillery gives us a lot of options on creativity: different mash bills, barrel-entry proofs, historic recipes we’re looking to replicate,” he said. “It’s going to be a while before we do those, but we’ve definitely got some things cooking in R&D.”
Following Saturday’s grand opening, the distillery and visitors center will open for tours every Monday and Wednesday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and every Sunday, from 1 to 5 p.m. No tours on Tuesdays.