Posts Tagged ‘Angel’s Envy’

2013: The Year of Great Premium Bourbon

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

author-hansellWhiskey prices keep climbing, and none of us are happy about it. It’s a simple matter of economics: supply vs. demand. The entire world has discovered the joy of whiskey and there isn’t enough to go around.

But if we can set aside the price issue for a moment and look at the quality of the product on the market, it’s quite apparent to me that 2013 will go down as a great year for premium and super-premium bourbon, and other American whiskeys, like rye and Tennessee. Let’s take a look at what’s been released this year.

The premium whiskeys we expect to be great every year are great again this year

Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection (George T. Stagg, William Larue Weller, Eagle Rare 17 yr., Parker's_ALS_Promise of Hope_Bottle ShotSazerac 18 yr., and Thomas H. Handy) delivers an amazingly consistent combination of quality and variety.

Then there’s the new Parker’s Heritage Collection “Promise of Hope” bottling. While the Antique Collection might get all the attention, Parker’s new release is just great, honest, no frills bourbon that I could drink every day and never tire of it.

On top of this, we have another stunning Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch for 2013. After we gave the 2012 Limited Edition Whisky Advocate’s “American Whiskey of the Year” honors, I thought that there was no way Jim Rutledge and the team at Four Roses could ever match that one. But they did with the 2013 Small Batch release! And the Four Roses 2013 Limited Edition Single Barrel offering is no slouch either.

Even the “hit and miss” annual releases are great this year

2013 saw two different Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection releases, six bottles in total—four different wheated bourbonsOldForBDay2013 that experimented with barrel entry proof and two 15 year old bourbons that varied the barrel stave seasoning times. All four wheated bourbons, while tasting quite different, were very good to excellent. The 15 year old bourbon with the extended 13 month stave drying time blew me away with enriched sweet, creamy notes that balanced the dried oak spice that comes with 15 years of aging, without the harsh tannins often found in bourbon that old.

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon release for 2013 was the best in many years. And my Elijah Craig 21 year old Single Barrel rocked! (Mine was from Barrel No. 42 if you’re keeping track. I did taste whiskey from other barrels and they were still good, but not quite of the stature of No. 42.)

George Dickel gets into the act too!
Dickel Hand Selected Barrel 9
After wishing for years that George Dickel would put out some great super-premium Tennessee whiskeys, they finally did. I was thrilled to see them introduce to retailers the new single cask “hand selected barrel” offerings at both 9 and 14 years of age—and higher proof! I particularly enjoyed the 9 year old samples I tasted. There’s so much untapped potential there at Dickel. Let’s start tapping it.

The new stuff is also exciting

Angel’s Envy Rye was like a breath of fresh air, combining rye spice with the rummy notes gained from being finished off in rum barrels. Beam came out with a new Distiller’s Masterpiece finished in PX casks and two new “Signature Craft” releases; one a standard 12 year old, the other finished with Spanish brandy. Wild Turkey Forgiven married bourbon with rye whiskeys. Okay, so maybe some of this new stuff isn’t of the caliber of the other whiskeys I mentioned above, but it was the icing on the cake of a really great year.

Sure, there’s still some ho-hum whiskeys

The Stagg Jr. I reviewed was a bit harsh and aggressive on the finish, and I could take or leave the two new Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Limited Edition Malt releases. Still, these were the exceptions to what otherwise was an outstanding year for premium and super-premium American whiskey.

All this, and not one mention of Pappy…

Lincoln Henderson: a life in whiskey

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

Lew BrysonManaging editor Lew Bryson looks back on the life of bourbon great Lincoln Henderson.

We were shocked and greatly saddened to receive the news that industry icon Lincoln Henderson died Tuesday night, September 10, at the age of 75.

Lincoln grew up in Oklahoma, and moved to Kentucky to take a BS in Chemistry from the University of Louisville. He put his degree to work at Brown-Forman, and was with the company for nearly 40 years. He shaped and developed some of the company’s most prestigious brands: Woodford Reserve, Gentleman Jack, and Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel. After he retired from Brown-Forman, he continued to work in the industry (he represented Yamazaki whisky at WhiskyFest for a number of years).

LincolnHenderson_lrThen in 2006, he went back to work selecting and blending whiskeys for Angel’s Envy, a company started by his son, Wes Henderson. Lincoln’s innovative feel for whiskey and instinctive genius for barrel selection quickly brought Angel’s Envy serious acclaim. Plans were in motion for a distillery in Louisville where he could once again craft whiskey from grain to glass, but someone else will have to take up the work.

Lincoln was a great distiller, but also a good friend. He told stories with a sly grin and a quick wit, and wasn’t afraid to tell a story that might upset the wrong people. “I hate this town,” he told me recently as we sat in center city Philadelphia…my town. “I hate the traffic. I hate it all.” He paused, and with a tiny quirk at the corner of his lips, he added, “It’s not really this town. I just hate traffic. I’d rather be home.”

I interviewed Lincoln a while back for a story on copper in distilling. It was pure Lincoln. I’d like to ask you a few questions about copper, I said. “We make stills out of it,” he barked. There was silence on the line. “Was there something else you wanted?” Of course there was, and once he’d had his fun, he gave me the benefit of his years of experience and chemical knowledge for an article that I look back on as a true education. Lincoln was one of those people who know more than most, and were generous enough to share it.

Lincoln’s son Wes referred to him as a “raging perfectionist” in his memorial to Lincoln yesterday. We like to drink the whiskey that comes from the hand of someone like that.

Angel’s Envy Distillery Breaks Ground

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

Whisky Advocate contributor Fred Minnick reports on the new Angel’s Envy distillery.

Angel's Envy Three HendersonsLouisville Distilling Company, the maker’s of Angel’s Envy, is turning a former hobo hangout into a $12 million distillery in downtown Louisville. Kentucky governor Steve Beshear, Louisville mayor Greg Fischer, spirits executives, and dozens of reporters attended the Angel’s Envy distillery groundbreaking on July 9 at the former Vermont American building, which had been vacant since 1986.

“Four years ago, we started looking for a distillery and kicked every piece of dirt in area,” said Wes Henderson, the company’s chief operating officer.

In May, InsiderLouisville.com broke the news about a downtown location with social media rumors circling around the Vermont building, a stone’s throw away from the city’s minor league baseball park, Slugger Field. “This was the worst-kept secret in the history of urban development,” Fischer said.

The planned opening is December 2014, and there’s a lot of work to do. When Angel’s Envy selected the building, public officials kicked out 30 homeless people, who, along with gang members, had shattered glass, cracked floors, busted brick walls, and marked their territory with spray cans. In the future stillroom, artists from the “Hole in the Wall Gang” and the “Living Dead” gang painted wolf’s heads and hypnotizing owls. On the second floor, where future fermenters will stand, gorgeous city and Ohio river views are marred by tacky markings.

Despite a few soft floors with holes, and busted brick façades, the foundation is in good shape. Nonetheless, standing water and yellow caution tape make the future distillery appear more like a CSI scene.

But the architects, Joseph & Joseph, are accustomed with distillery fixer-uppers. Since 1908, the firm has built dozens of distilleries, including Four Roses, Stitzel-Weller, and Brown-Forman facilities. Joseph & Joseph is also turning downtown Louisville’s Fort Nelson building into the Michter’s distillery.

The building actually carries a historical significance to the brand. Master distiller Lincoln Henderson’s father built equipment for the Vermont building; Lincoln remembers hanging out at the building as a kid. Now the legendary Henderson, a member of the Bourbon Hall of Fame and former Brown-Forman master distiller, works alongside his son, Wes, and grandson, Kyle, to create one of the fastest-growing spirits in the U.S. market.

The new distillery will eventually have the capacity to create roughly 31 barrels of whiskey a day from a column still made by the Louisville-based Vendome Copper & Brass Works.

Since launching its first product in 2010, Angel’s Envy has become a lightning rod of sorts in the bourbon industry. The first non-extension bourbon product line finished in port casks made Angel’s Envy a “love it or hate it” whiskey. Purists denied its bourbon ties…while fans quickly bought up as much as they could.

One fan of Angel’s Envy is the Kentucky governor. Thanks to the Kentucky Economic Finance Authority, Angel’s Envy is eligible for $800,000 in state tax incentives and another $72,000 through the Kentucky Enterprise Initiative Act.

“This is another great development for our international industry of bourbon,” Beshear said. “Kentucky produces 95 percent of the world’s bourbon. And quite frankly, the other 5 percent is counterfeit.”

Louisville was once the American whiskey Wall Street. Hundreds of rectifiers and distillers were headquartered along Main Street, an area known as Whiskey Row. Today, developers are calling the area Bourbon Row and are trying to resurrect a forgotten piece of American history.

In the past year, Michter’s, Evan Williams and the Peerless Distillery have broken ground on Main Street distilleries. I’m also aware of another very famous bourbon name working on a Main Street distillery location, while Louisville’s Stitzel-Weller distillery may be the most highly anticipated distillery reopening in history.

Of all these, Wes Henderson believes Angel’s Envy “will bring bourbon back to Whiskey Row.”