Are craft spirits expensive? Yes. But despite the occasionally high price of the bottles, individual expression—not profit at any cost—stands as the cornerstone of the craft distillery market. And Angel’s Envy may be the platonic expression of this fact. This small batch bourbon is the vision of Lincoln Henderson, an inaugural member of the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame who boasts a long history of spirit craft that includes having a hand in Woodford Reserve, Jack Daniels, Gentleman Jack, and Jack Daniels Single Barrel.
The name “Angel’s Envy” speaks to the elegance of Henderson’s swansong spirit. As bourbon matures in the barrels, five percent of the liquor evaporates for every year of aging, a loss commonly dubbed “the angel’s share.” And when Henderson tasted the first batch of his new bourbon, he announced that the angels would want a bigger cut.
He’s right. The bourbon is a warm, inviting drink with no sharp edges and loads of subtlety that announces itself on the nose. The first sip delivers flavors of caramel, fruit, chocolate, and a slight hint of vanilla anchored around a smoky undertone. You want to linger over every sip, but the refined smoothness and nary a hint of burn begs for you to pour another glass after you finish your first.
Much of this complexity is derived from the bourbon’s base ingredients: corn and rye, grown in Kentucky’s limestone-watershed soil that’s rich in calcium and magnesium. After it’s distilled, Angel’s Envy is then aged for six years in charred American white oak barrels, and then further aged in hand-selected ruby port casks imported from Portugal. Here the bourbon rests until the esteemed distillers deem it worthy of bottling based on its rich amber hue and distinct flavor. It’s then blended with other barrel selections to reach the full taste profile. And, unlike other bourbons, Angel’s Envy isn’t filtered, a process that can extract as much as 20 percent of the bourbon’s flavors and color. There may be some sediment in the bottle as a result, but its presence seems to reinforce the detailed process it takes to create such a singular spirit.
Henderson passed last September at the too-young age of 75. But his legacy lives on. And if angels exist, chances are he has slightly less envy than the rest of his winged consorts given his 40-year professional passion for bourbon. Then again
Distillery: Louisville Distilling Co (http://www.angelsenvy.com/)
City: Louisville, KY
Style: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey