Whiskey Wednesday: Angel's Envy Rye — In a Word ... Wow!



I know it's only mid-May, but I think I've found my favorite new spirit product of 2013. I hesitate to even tell y'all about it because it's not quite ready to be released in the Nashville market yet, but since I only received a tiny bottle as a sample, I'm in the same boat as you until it hits the shelves. That wee dram was enough to convince me that I need to start putting aside my ducats so I'll be able to afford this tasty whiskey when it does arrive. Have I piqued your interest enough yet?

A couple of years back I told you about Angel's Envy, a premium bourbon produced by Louisville Distilling Co., the team of master mixers put together by Lincoln Henderson. You may know him as the man who basically invented Gentleman Jack and Woodford Reserve during his long career at Brown Foreman. His new company specializes in taking good whiskey and making it great by blending it and finishing it in creative and innovative ways. The original Angel's Envy benefits from a final repose in port barrels to offer a complexity not found in most bourbons that haven't been stashed away for two decades in a warehouse.

His latest creation is Angel's Envy Rye, a truly special spirit that deserves a spot in the front of your liquor cabinet. Lincoln chose a mix of locally sourced 95 percent rye and 5 percent malted barley to create the base spirit. After six years in new charred oak barrels, the whiskey has been finished in Caribbean rum casks. These particular barrels began their careers as small French cognac casks, so the combination offers some unique flavors and characteristics that just aren't present in your average whiskey barrels. The Angel's Envy team sourced and sampled more than 100 different rums to choose the exact one they thought contributed just the right richness to their rye whiskey. (And you thought I had the best job in the world ...)

After up to 18 months of finishing in the rum casks, the resulting spirit has been bottled at a relatively high alcohol level of 100 proof. Even with such a high proof, Angel's Envy Rye is extremely smooth and suitable for drinking straight up or in cocktails. The nose has the expected spicy and fruity elements of rye, but there are also strong overtones of vanilla and caramel. To tell a little story on myself, I had my first tiny sip just after I had eaten a Skinny Cow ice cream sandwich. I thought that the wonderful chocolate and brown sugar notes were just leftovers or magnifications of the 100 calorie treat I had just pounded, and I cursed myself for not trying the rye on a clean palate. So I put the rest aside until the next evening when I discovered that the flavors had been in the whiskey all along.

It makes sense when you consider the molasses character contributed by the rum barrels, the caramel of the cognac and the strong vanilla from the charred oak, but I never expected all of them to work so well with a hot, fruity rye. The finish remains sweet and rummy, and I'm not sure I would even bother to mix a Manhattan with Angel's Envy. That's saying a lot because I love Manhattans! If you're an absolute purist about your whiskeys, this may not be the one for you because you might be put off by the almost gingerbready character. But as a remarkable drink served with a splash and maybe one ice cube, I think I've found a new go-to.

Final retail price hasn't been revealed for our market, but expect a premium price for this ultrapremium rye. Like possibly in the $70-$80 range for a fifth. That's why I'm saving my change in an empty bottle so I can buy a full bottle of Angel's Envy Rye sometime soon.

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