Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame Inductee and Angel’s Envy, Co Founder Wes Henderson landed in Chicago one day before from his trip to NYC.
A vertical of cask strength releases isn’t something Wes typically does given it might influence the opinions of the current year release. However, at The Franklin Room in River North, him and I lined up the the 2017, 2018 + 2019 vintages on the eve of the 2019 cask release.
Cask Strength Expressions are all about appreciating the spirit the way it was designed, bourbon at its rawest interpretation before any filtration. These unique barrels don’t seek to achieve a certain taste profile or bottle count; at the end of the year it is what it is.
Angel’s Envy is a Finished Bourbon. Back in 2012, they were one of the first to adopt taking Kentucky Straight Whisky (aged 4 years) then resting it in port wine and rum casks for the win. Their downtown Louisville based distillery opened in 2016 in a restored building from 1902. It’s currently the number two tourist attraction in the city.
Most bourbon bottles are typically square and manly. Angels Envy’s bottle shape conforms to that of an angel’s wing. Port wine barrel finishing was very common with scotch, but not so much with the American whisky. There was noise in the questioning whether it was really bourbon.
The Portuguese Ruby Port Wine changes the perception of cask strength. Those barrels contain microscopic particles of grape that coat your palette; The mouthfeel and viscosity are rounder. Casks are used 3-4 times and are sometimes recharged with fresh port wine to keep the staves moist. It’s not the sexiest of ports but it works for finishing. They would have loved to find an exotic wine made by monks for the story but it’s about taste more than story.
These are well constructed special occasion whiskeys. The cask strength is 122.4 proof with an aggressive dried fruit on the nose. It’s an incredibly smooth interpretation with notes of toasted bread, caramel and vanilla.
-Wes Anderson started working in radio at age 15. His 1st gig was at a radio station in central Kentucky working all day Sundays. He loves flying airplanes and making bourbon. His dad of course is Lincoln Henderson, Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Famer. Lincoln is responsible for some of the most well-known brands of all time including Woodford Reserve and Gentleman Jack.
-Evaporation in barrels is known as the angel’s share. After tasting the first batch from the project, Wes proclaimed that the angel’s must be envious of what was left behind.
-Angel’s Envy Rye is aged for 6 years then finished 18 months in Plantation XO rums Caribbean Rum casks.
-Through their #ToastTheTrees campaign, the distillery planted a white oak tree for every hashtag used. In 2019 they planted 35,000 trees.
-The $12 million Angel’s Envy downtown Louisville renovation included a distillery and welcome center. Four generations of Henderson men have worked in the building.
-The flight tasting with Wes didn’t feel like a progression or an evolution of three years. Each expression was unique; Dried fruits on the ’17 were the most pronounced in the set. 2018 was where perception of proof was the most interesting. Without knowing, you would never assume it was over 100 proof.
-Angel’s Envy is a subsidiary of Bacardi Limited. It’s the first American whisky under the family owned rum and spirits company. Bacardi is the largest privately held spirits company in the world. The business structures, employee base, production, distribution, commercial and marketing activities at Angel’s Envy have remained unchanged.
-The Franklin Room Chicago Speakeasy Tavern is located at 675 N. Franklin St.