“We don’t decide ahead of time how many barrels we’re going to use and what it’ll taste like,” the Angel’s Envy Production Manager told me recently. “We see what we have. Don’t care what we did last year, [to be] quite frank.”
The bourbon-drinking world cares. The Angel’s Envy Cask Strength release has become widely anticipated in the whiskey world every year since its 2012 debut, when one publication declared it the best spirit in the world. It retails for $200 a bottle, if you can get it. On secondary markets, it often sells for more.
During the year, Henderson sets aside bourbon barrels he thinks are aging especially well and might make the cut for Cask Strength. He says about 76 barrels finishing in Portuguese port wine casks were set aside for the 2019 release. Ultimately, 45 or 46 barrels were selected for the final expression. That’s enough for 14,000 bottles, up from 12,000 a year ago.
Henderson says Angel’s Envy controls as many aspects as possible of the whiskey it sources, but is looking forward to transitioning to its own juice in a few years. The Angel’s Envy distillery opened in Louisville in 2016, and Henderson says he expects to start blending the Angel’s Envy distillate into the contracted whiskey in 2021 and to be done with sourced whiskey entirely by 2024. In the meantime, Angel’s Envy will start selling internationally this year.
Vital Stats: 122.4 proof; 61.2% ABV; mash bill of 72% corn, 18% rye, 10% malted barley; retails for about $200 per 750 ml bottle, packaged in a stylish wooden box.
Appearance: Rich amber
Nose: Honey on a biscuit; vanilla extract; brown banana; Bing Cherries; caramelized figs.
Palate: The port finishing is evident, with dark chocolate and plum on top of the traditional bourbon flavors. Toffee. Butterscotch. Cinnamon. Sweet undertones.
This bourbon lives up to its reputation – which, in this case, is high praise. I prefer it with a little bit of water and air, to round out the high alcohol content. But the flavor is exceptional, and it comes with a long and elegant finish.
Henderson says he tastes honey in the 2019 release, which is not something he usually associates with bourbon. I have to agree with him; it’s subtle, but it’s there. This is a whiskey I’d be happy to pour for any occasion… or no occasion at all.
Reporting and writing has taken Scott Bernard Nelson all over the world, giving him an opportunity to cover everything from 9/11 to an Olympic Games to the invasion of Iraq. These days, he’s retired from daily journalism but still enjoys talking with interesting people and writing fun stories. When he’s...