Unlike some bourbon products where the story is in the bourbon or a brand itself, Lincoln Henderson (and to some degree, his son Wes) is the story of Angel’s Envy.
Lincoln Henderson was the longtime master distiller at Brown-Forman. He is a bourbon legend and is credited with the development of products such as Woodford Reserve and Gentlemen Jack. A few years after retirement from Brown-Forman, Lincoln and his son, Wes, began exploring barrel finished bourbons. They eventually arrived on Port finished bourbon as a product that they desired to bring to market.
The Hendersons then founded Angel’s Envy (about a decade ago) and began producing sourced Kentucky straight bourbon whiskeys finished in Port barrels. It was at the time incredibly unique (and very well received).
Lincoln Henderson passed in 2013 leaving Wes in control. And although Bacardi purchased the Angel’s Envy brand in 2015, Wes Henderson and his family remain at the wheel today.
While the story behind the bourbon is Lincoln Henderson, the bourbon itself has its own interesting story, one which continues to develop.
The sources of the products are a bit of a mystery. We know that all are Kentucky straight bourbon whiskeys. Also, all have mashbills around 70-73% corn, 15-20% rye, and the balance malted barley. But beyond those facts, little is known for sure. Sources indicate possibly three different source or contract distilleries produce the base product, before being sent to Angel’s Envy for finishing. Recently, the Angel’s Envy distillery has opened in Louisville. They are now producing their own products, but (obviously) none have reached the bottle. So for the time being, we don’t know for sure the source (or number of sources) of any of the product in the bottle.
As to age and the blending process (two components that go hand-in-hand at Angel’s Envy), while the products don’t have any age statements, it is widely believed that the whiskeys mature for around 5-7 years in the barrel, before being moved to the port barrels for a 2-6 month finishing process. The finishing time in the Port barrels creates unique flavor profiles, which Angel’s Envy describes as follows (the ages being approximate): “A” whiskies age for 2 months in the Port Barrels, “B” for 4 months and “C” for 6 months. A “D” profile purportedly exists as well, and possibly others. These different components (A, B, C, etc) are then blended and diluted to make the final product.
With that background, Jay Cary, Chris Crow and I sat down with three bottles of Angel’s Envy for a sampling.
[Note: Rating rubric: 1 (don’t buy, don’t drink), 2 (don’t buy, but drink if you must), 3 (buy only at MSRP, enjoy a drink when you want), 4 (worth finding at or near MSRP, drink happily), 5 (find it, buy it for any price you can live with, savor every drop).]
Angel’s Envy Bourbon (Batch No. 16E, Bottle No. 720) (86.6 proof)
Nose: Sweet corn and grain; briny; chewy caramel; dry wood.
Palate: Initially pretty rich with a nice corny texture; fruit/cherry; spice (rye and pepper) that hits about half way through; a cardboard taste/texture on the end of the palate; hotter than 86 proof, which feels like alcohol burn but probably is just a hot pepper spice;
Finish: Long; dry and tannic, port wine flavors hit about 15 seconds after you swallow, which mellows into lingering grape soda.
Overall: Solid throughout, with no real shortcomings. The Port finish mellows it out so that no characteristic really shines (save maybe some high rye spice that does give a bit of character). This mellowness is thorough enough (even with the spice) that we would be comfortable serving this to even a bourbon newbie.
Angel’s Envy Bourbon – Liquor Barn Store Blend (Batch No. FA14, Bottle No. 1121) (Recipe: A-40%, B-30%, C- 30%) (86.6 proof)
Nose: Compared to the standard bottle sampled, this is much less corny, with healthy doses of tobacco and leather; dried white fig, toffee, a bit of bine (not quite as pronounced as in the standard bottle); a bit more pepper spice.
Palate: Grape soda upfront, with a bit of caramel; then very drying rye spice hits half way through; a bit drying on the tongue almost like club soda.
Finish: Much quicker and less complex; cardboard; the finish leave a numb tongue, despite only 86 proof (we believe this is again the tannins)
Overall: The nose is rich and wonderful, but the Palate and finish were a letdown. The dryness did not set well (despite it working well on the standard bottle), which may be due to how early it set it.
Angel’s Envy Bourbon Cask Strength 2016 (Batch C5, Bottle 9497) (124.6 proof)
Nose: Brown sugar; generic branded cola; pear; floral; pepper; much less ethanol on the nose than expected at cask strength.
Palate: A salt bomb, with secondary impressions of salted caramel coffee; dried fig; cola syrup, really hot, from both the rye spice and the proof; pepper; mint that transitions from the palate to the finish.
Finish: Transitioning mint and salt; spice; lingering mouth coating texture; lasting spice and salt on the tongue.
Overall: This is a very unusual pour. Each of us picked up on an incredible amount of saltiness at cask strength that was only present as a faint brininess on the lower proof offerings. This, accompanied by a significant spiciness, left us all wanting to try more. Notwithstanding, none of us were happy with the price.
Score: 2.5 (an enjoyable pour and one you should try at a bar or on someone else’s dime, but for purpose of buying a bottle it is underwhelming at that price).