Every third Monday of the month, Haymarket whiskey Bar hosts its “Third Monday Master Distiller” gathering. This month featured Wes Henderson, who carries on Lincoln Henderson’s legacy as the Master Distiller at Angel’s Envy. The evening featured talks from members of the Henderson family and tastings of some hard to find Angel’s Envy products – namely their Cask Strength and Angel’s Envy Rye. Here is what we came away with – besides a righteous buzz:
1. Angel’s Envy Rye is one of the best bourbons on the planet
Angel’s Envy Rye is one of the unicorns of the bourbon world – so few bottles were made and so few have tasted it that it holds almost mythical status in the bourbon world.
Well I have seen the unicorn. And I have put it in my mouth.
I don’t give out bourbon accolades too readily, but this stuff is superior to anything I have tasted in a long time. I was nursing a cask strength bourbon flight and promptly pushed it aside at the mere mention of the rye by the bartender. Wes Henderson then saunters behind me
Wes (to bartender) “Get him a shot. Put it on my tab.”
Me (mouth agape with stupification) “You…have…a bottle??”
Wes “Yea. I kinda make the stuff. We age it for 6 years in a charred white oak barrel and finish it in Caribbean Rum Casks. What do you think?”
One of the things that gets on my nerves the most is the statement “such-and-so is the best bourbon on the planet”. Ladies and gents, Angel’s Envy Rye is the best bourbon on the planet. I am not going to describe it here, as we will do a detailed writeup, but I will say this: I bribed Jay the Bartender an obscene amount of money for the half finished bottle. He refused.
You cant even find this stuff on Bottle Spot, but if you ever come across it, buy ALL OF IT.
2. We are only 16 months from a new downtown Louisville distillery
Amidst rumors of a Angel’s Envy planned distillery falling through, the team confirmed that we are only 16 months away from grand opening! Wes and the rest of the Angel’s Envy staff have been working through the red tape and structural issues dealing with building in one of Louisville’s historic buildings – a dilapidated piece of property on the corner of Main Street and Jackson street.
While the distillery will be open to tourists, it will be more functional than “fun land” in contrast to the Evan Williams Experience. Angel’s Envy will be the first distiller to operate on Main Street since Prohibition.
3. Angels Envy won’t be selling out any time soon
Distilleries left and right have been selling out to huge overseas corporations. Kirin snapped up Four Roses back in 2001, and this year Jim Beam (and Maker’s Mark) yielded to a $13.6 Billion buyout from Suntory – Japan’s larges beverage maker. Not Angel’s Envy! The family prides itself on being a “small” operation, and will remain privately owned and operated. Considering the uncertain future of the American economy, I am happy to see money going into the pockets of business owners right here in ‘Murica.
4. There is no secret story behind the bottle
For a long time, bar patrons would tell me the story of how the death of one of Lincoln Henderson’s mistresses inspired the shape and artwork behind the Angel’s Envy bottle. Not true. Its just a unique design that pays homage to a unique bourbon. As of now its the only bourbon that is finished in port barrels, giving it an unparallelled flavor profile.
5. Angel’s Envy was born as market disruptor against Brown-Foreman
Lincoln Henderson once said that he aimed to make a whiskey that was more subtle than Brown-Forman, in part to appeal to non-bourbon drinkers.
“If you look at Old Forester, which was Brown-Forman’s original whiskey — I had to live and breathe by that thing — and Woodford, these are very bold whiskeys. You’ve got to have a lot of flavor, a lot of oak,” he said.
“If you talk to a lot of people, they’ll say it’s got too much. I found this out in Germany, in the UK, essentially around the world, that bourbon was just too much for people. I was thinking we need to do something that’s more subtle.”
There are a few people that deserve special thanks for making our night one to remember:
- Yohann – Close friend of the Henderson family, public servant, and a man whose advice I will put into practice for years to come. Thanks for picking up our tab, and when next we meet, dinner is on us!
- Wesley Henderson – Chief Distiller at Angel’s Envy and the brains behind their operations. His wit and humor is astounding! Wes is humbly carrying on the traditions of his family craft, and managed to push the Main Street distillery project forward with huge sums of private equity – and we Louisvillians appreciate it! (And thanks for the shot!)
- Kyle Henderson – Kyle is the Grandson of the legendary Lincoln Henderson. We got inside knowledge on Angel’s Envy future operations and his take on the direction of the bourbon industry amidst growing demand. Kyle proved to be just as educated on bourbon making as his father, and in 50 years or so i have no doubt that he too will become a bourbon legend. Currently, Kyle is studying Biochemistry at the University of Louisville.
- Matt – Matt is the owner of Haymarket Whiskey Bar, a mainstay of downtown Louisville’s Urban Bourbon Trail. Matt was more than happy to show off his wares, including some hard to find bottles that he keeps hidden away. His hospitality made all the difference!
- Jay – Jay served as our Bartender for the evening, and put up with our incessant questioning and requests for flights, shots, and bottles to oogle over. He knows his stuff, and that’s all we ask for from our Bartenders.
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