Angel’s Envy is one of those Bourbon labels that people throw around to prove that vilifying sourced Bourbon is wrong, but passing this off as simple, outsourced whisky is erroneous. Lincoln Henderson, formerly prolific master-distiller for the Brown-Forman empire, has his fingerprints over the whole process, from developing the yeast and mash bill to managing the casks as they age. He didn’t just buy some other guy’s pre-made production, finish it in some port pipes and then bottle it. He and his team spent time actually developing it at someone else’s distillery, taking cues from Henderson’s experience crafting for the likes of Jack Daniel’s and Woodford Reserve. Woodford Reserve’s triple distillation and cask experimentation, Jack Daniel’s charcoal filtration, together a mix of column and pot still production; this is what artists do when they’ve had a lifetime to develop a full range of techniques. Angel’s Envy also uses air dried wood for their casks instead of wood from kilned sources, and make sure to mature exclusively on the top levels of the warehouse. For the skeptics, Angel’s Envy is also one of a very few labels, along with Wild Turkey and Four Roses, to use non-GMO grain.
My first sips of Angel’s Envy made me feel like a Stoorish Hobbit that went fishing one day and ended up finding something so beautiful that it turned me into a shriveled hunchback troll dancing by the water. I’ve gone full-Gollum for Angel’s Envy. We wants it. We needs it. We must have the precious… Blind to the terrible things it’s doing to me internally, we would follows some jerks who wanted nothing more than to throws it away, all the ways to Mordors, on the off-chance we’s might be able to steals us another sip. Precioooouuusss. It was mind-and-grammar-altering stuff… so I petitioned the folks at Angel’s Envy for a sample, which they happily obliged.
Looking at the bottle there was none of the usual batch information. Allegedly, Wes himself parted with a bottle from his personal stash to let me have this one; thanks, Wes! It wasn’t quite like I remembered though, so I started looking for a sample to compare.
After asking around, I found a friend with a bottle to compare, batch 3J to be precise. The 3J batch was much fruitier and kind of smelled like a hot blob of Starburst candies and mashed banana. The mystery batch was good, but not quite the same. It had much less fruit, especially on the palate.
I read on a sales sheet tucked away on the Angel’s Envy webpage, that Lincoln chooses a scant 12 casks to marry for each batch, so this discrepancy might mean they had been putting their best foot forward early on in their career and changed courses once they had established a good reputation, or more likely that they were experiencing the ups-and-downs of small scale production, what whiskyphiles affectionately refer to as the “small batch blues.” Either way, it’s a nice whisky.
Nose: Pineapple pates de fruits, and guava. Slippery pear-type maltiness. Dusty barn boards, fresh cinnamon rolls and brown sugar packed over neatly arranged bundles of mint. Sweet but slightly farmy, the way I remember a nicely balanced Clynelish being. Not overly perfumed the way traditional Bourbons can be, either, but not nearly as fruity as some of the other bottles of Angel’s Envy I’ve had. In fact, I found this one a bit flat and boring.
Palate: Bold oak and mild cinnamon. Hay and blueberry pineapple cobbler. Smokey caramel. Malt with rye-spiced raspberries coming in towards the end. Traces of anesthetized mint in the finish. Ignore any exaggerated descriptors here; this one was actually kind of flat.
Thank you to Aaron Brost and Angel’s Envy for the bottle! Cheers!!!