I have known Wes Henderson for many years. I had great respect for his father and Angel’s Envy co-founder Lincoln Henderson and knew him for even longer than Wes. When they were getting ready to release Angel’s Envy, Wes called me at the Filson Historical Society where I worked at the time, and asked me if I thought they should call it Bourbon. My answer was personally I didn’t think it is Bourbon. Adding flavor, no matter how it is done, disqualifies it as being a Bourbon, but I followed that with the fact that I thought he would be stupid not to put Bourbon on the label if the government was going to let them do so. He agreed and even though he thought I was right about the flavoring, he would do so. The wording on the label is that it is “Kentucky Straight Bourbon Finished in Port Wine Barrels”. I like to interpret the wording as saying it used to be Bourbon until they put it into the wine barrels. Now it is simply Angel’s Envy whiskey. And it is a very good whiskey.
The not so secret, secret to Angel’s Envy is that a portion of the whiskey is aged in Port Wine barrels for months while the rest is aged for a lesser amount of time in the wine barrels. This leaves a delicate wine flavor that does not cover the flavor of the Bourbon. I find that is the problem with most wine barrel finished Bourbons – the wine hides the great flavor of the Bourbon instead of complimenting the flavor. Lincoln and Wes knew what they were doing when they created this brand. It is very well crafted.
The whiskey in the bottles now has been sourced before it was finished in the wine barrels. That will be the case for several more years as the Angel’s Envy distillery is only a little more than a year old. There will probably be a bit of flavor drift when they start to use their own Bourbon, but I don’t expect it to be too noticeable because of the wine factor. I do know that they are making some very good new make spirit at the distillery and it will be very good Bourbon when they finish aging in the barrels. I do hope they release some un-finished Bourbon when it is ready, but the Port Wine finish is so popular that it may take years to have enough Bourbon to support a straight Bourbon brand.
Angel’s Envy Bourbon Finished in Port Wine Barrels
Age: No Age Statement
Nose: Corn and vanilla with the port wine fruit – raisins and dates, with a hint of oak wood and sweet spices.
Taste: Caramel corn and fruit – dates and berries with cinnamon and nutmeg spices and just a hint of oak. Tasted with a dried cranberry brings forward the vanilla and fruit making it very creamy with berries and grapes. Tasted with a pecan brings the corn forward and reduces the fruit to deep in the background. The spice becomes a little more peppery.
Finish: Long and dry. This is where the oak comes forward with only a little fruit sweetness in the background. The cranberries make the finish fruitier but still with a hint of oak tannins. The pecan dries the finish out to oak and smoke, not spicy at all, but a hickory smoke note comes forward.
This is a good whiskey. Today I am pairing it with an Arturo Fuente Hemmingway Short Story Maduro. The smoke brings out the oak in the whiskey while the whiskey gives the smoke a bit more cedar and wood dryness.
Photos Courtesy of Michael Veach