Henderson is renowned for his work at Woodford Reserve and Old Forester, and for this venture, he's put together an all-star array of liquor geniuses with experience at Bacardi, Jim Beam and other Brown-Forman brands. Together with a team that includes Lincoln's son Wes, they have formed the Louisville Distilling Co. and established a new facility on Main Street in the 'Ville.
(Years ago, a lot of liquor flowed from downtown Louisville, but now Bardstown, Ky., is the center of the bourbon universe. At least for now.)
Angel's Envy is intended to be Louisville Distilling's flagship brand, but certainly not the only liquor they will make. As a start-up, they are currently buying their base bourbon from another (unnamed) distillery and then aging it in charred new oak for at least four years before it is finished in port wine barrels for three to six months.
Where the actual distillation took place is a well-guarded secret in the liquor world, but what is important is that thanks to what happened after it arrived in the capable hands of Lincoln Henderson, Angel's Envy has a mellowness and complexity that is absolutely amazing in a bourbon this young.
The port barrels add a beautiful copper color to the bourbon, and you might actually see little purple flecks of grape skin in the bottle. Don't worry, they are imperceptible on the tongue. What the port barrels do is impart a lo-o-o-o-ng oaky finish that is totally unexpected in such a young whiskey.
Even though Angel's Envy is a little overproofed at 86, the finishing process allows the vanilla and caramel notes to come through instead of just the heat of the alcohol. Fortunately, the experts at Louisville Distilling know exactly when to remove Angel's Envy from the oak before it gets too woody.
When it arrives in Nashville, Angel's Envy will probably retail at around the $50 a bottle level. While this is a little steep, it's right in the sweet spot of premium small-batch whiskeys. (Don't ask what I just paid for a bottle of 23-year-old Pappy Van Winkle. But dammit, I found one!) When I spoke with Mr. Henderson (note my respect for the bourbon kings), he suggested that you should try it with at least four or five ice cubes. At barrel-strength, you would probably lose some of the nuances of the flavors fighting the alcohol. I personally enjoyed it in a small glass with a single rock and an eyedropper of branch water.
In the future, Louisville Distilling hopes to experiment with finishing in tequila and rum barrels. They hope to eventually move to small pot stills so they can make many special batches that you and I can expect to enjoy for years to come. Look for the distinctive tall, skinny bottle with the delicate angel wings etched into the back, and you can't miss the distinctive Lincoln-penny color of the wonderful elixir inside.