In Episode 14 Charlie and I tried Angel’s Envy bourbon for the Bottom’s Up segment of the show and I wanted to write-up my reaction as well. I will start out by giving my usual disclaimer for my drink reviews. I am not an expert on bourbon or any other kind of liquor and I am proud of my “enthusiastic amateur” status when it comes to tastings. So it is very likely that words will fail me when I try to describe for you just how good this bourbon is.
Before I get into the tast of the bourbon I feel like I need to give you some background information. Through out my childhood my family slowly went from lower to upper working class but we never really got past the mac n’ cheese and light beer standard of food. I should point out that since leaving home my mom has become quite the wine enthusiast and an excellent cook but when the kids were at home the budget did not afford lamb shanks, as much as she might have wished to expand our horizons. The end result of this upbringing is that, from time to time, I am lucky enough to stumble into a world of flavor that I did not know existed. I first remember this happening to me when I ate at a particularly good Indian restaurant in Berkeley. Up to that point when I tried a food, it seemed to have one flavor, a mushy blend of whatever it was and that flavor could be deemed either good or bad but that was about all I could say about it. You see, I thought that was all there was to flavor. When I ate at that restaurant for the first time I could taste several different flavors at once. Each distinct and yet woven together to make a symphony in my mouth. This happened again when I went to dinner with a wine rep and she treated the table to a $50 bottle of wine. There may not be much difference between a $6 bottle and a $20 bottle but on that day I learned that there is actually a point where you surpass ordinary wine and find yourself in a different dimension of flavors. It was like the time I sleep under the stars in upstate New York and suddenly realized that all this time there had been a universe of stars, hidden in plain sight, that I’d never really seen before. It may sound like hyperbole but this was the experience of trying Angel’s Envy Bourbon.
Angle’s Envy is the masterpiece of Lincoln Henderson, master distiller for the Louisville Distilling Company, who created this bourbon after a lifetime of working on bourbon. It is unique, not only because of the huge amount of attention to detail that goes into its creation, but also because after being aged 4-6 years in American White Oak barrels it is actually finished in port casks for an additional six months. I had never heard of a bourbon being finished in this way and although I was initially wary of this break from tradition, clearly the man knows what he’s doing.
The nose is sweet, with a hint of honey and cherry, and you can tell right away that you are in for a treat. It has a creamy mouth feel and is the smoothest bourbon I’ve ever tried. You can roll it around your mouth and let the different flavors dance on your tongue. I tasted vanilla, honey and a mild oak flavor that gave an edge to its sweetness. The flavors were light yet complex. Yet as I predicted, words fail. Do yourself a favor and buy a bottle and try it yourself. Unfortunately though, our Ohio readers will have to travel south to do so. Angel’s Envy is not available in Ohio.
The name of the bourbon, Angel’s Envy, refers to the concept of the “angel’s share” the amount of alcohol that is lost through evaporation out of the oak barrels. It is a name for a bourbon so good that the angels are envious of the amount that remains in the barrel. Drinking this bourbon initially made me envious of those who can afford to have such a luxury anytime they wish. But upon further reflection I have to admit that I am glad that my palate has not become so sophisticated that I fail to be shocked and surprised when I encounter a truly remarkable flavor. Wanting is more fulfilling than having, as Spock so eloquently put it. The act of longing for something gives life a little bit of the bitterness that makes it interesting. An edge to cut the sweetness if you will. So even though I am already sad that one day all too soon the bottle will be empty and I won’t have the money to run out and immediately replace it, I am also glad that I now have a bourbon worth saving up for.