Louisville Distilling Company, the small-batch maker with the acclaimed master distiller Lincoln Henderson, is joining the corps of whiskey companies to debut a rye whiskey, with its new Angel’s Envy Rye finished in Caribbean rum casks.
Henderson, the former master distiller of Brown-Forman, who used to oversee such brands as Jack Daniel’s and Old Forester and created Woodford Reserve, came out of retirement to help his son Wes with the newly formed Louisville Distilling and has since debuted Angel’s Envy Bourbon, which is finished in Port casks. As reported in this space in December when a cask-strength Bourbon was added to the portfolio, Henderson was planning other additions. This is the next shoe to drop.
“We considered finishing a spirit in rum casks for some time and ultimately felt that the spiciness of a well-rounded rye provided the best pairing,” Henderson said in a statement. “We sourced and sampled more than 100 different rums before unanimously choosing one with extraordinary richness that perfectly marries with our rye whiskey.”
Henderson has said that he first began experimenting with Bourbon finishes (the practice of adding a number of months of aging in a cask previously used to hold another spirit) even while at Brown-Forman and had as many as 10 different tests with ex-barrels going at once. Casks types included rum, brandy, Sherry and Tequila.
This whiskey has, in a sense, a double finish as previous to being used for rum, the casks have been used to age Cognac brandy.
For Angel’s Envy, the containers performed a finish of up to 18 months.
In the past decade, rye whiskey, long ignored by much of the market, has experienced a renaissance driven by the number of connoisseur ryes to reach the market and its popularity with the classic cocktail crowd. Straight rye whiskey is very similar to Bourbon in production methods and differs chiefly in the grain formula used. Bourbon regulations stipulate that its mashbill contain at least 51 percent corn, while the rest is usually made up of rye and barley grain. Rye recipes flip the formula over with at least 51 percent rye mixed with corn and barley.
Angel’s Envy takes the atypical stance of removing corn from the mix altogether, with a mashbill of 95 percent rye and 5 percent barley. (Some portion of barley is used in almost all whiskeys as it helps to turn the starch to sugar in the malting process prior to fermentation.) While the preponderance of rye results in a spicier whiskey, the sweetness of the rum casks gives the whiskey balance.
The whiskey will be available in California, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas in time for Father’s Day in June.
(Tasting notes and cigar pairings on next page)
Angel's Envy Rye Whiskey (100 proof or 50 percent alcohol by volume, about $79.99 for a 750 ml bottle)
APPEARANCE: Medium amber quartz, very slow medium-width legs.
NOSE: Maple syrup fairly jumps out of the bottle, followed by charming wisps of caramel, smoke, pralines, red berries, butter rum and honey.
PALATE: That strong hint of maple on the nose all but disappears on the palate, replaced by berry fruits, nuts, a sort of honey/eucalyptus spiciness and exotic tea. While this complex tour of flavors can run from soft and sweet to tart and sultry, it doesn’t have the overwhelming spicy sourness that might be expected from the one-sided mashbill.
FINISH: The finish goes on and on, replaying the past and bringing in new flavors like hazelnut, sherry and oak. When it finally closes up, that promise of maple sugar first experienced on the nose plays out.
CIGAR PAIRING: Nat Sherman Especiale ($6.20, 6 inches by 38 ring, 91 points, April 2012 Cigar Aficionado)
panetela has a near-perfect burn. Its core of rich cocoa and cedar
flavors are balanced by more refined touches of dark chocolate and dried
citrus. What it seems to lack in sweetness is quickly sought out by the
rye, as it shows hints of vanilla and hazelnut. The Angel’s Envy gains
an edge that it previously didn’t display, but the pairing favors the
Tatuaje Black Lancero ($10.00, 7 1/2 inches by 38 ring, 91 points, April 2012 Cigar Aficionado)
A great-looking lancero with a triple-seam cap and pigtail. Its lush draw layers the palate with chewy dense smoke that is both sweet with nougat and hearty with coffee bean. Flavors build to a gingersnap finish. Again, the rye brings out the cigar’s sweetness, showcasing the nougat notes and introducing a distinctly nutty appeal. The cigar runs up the maple notes from the Angel’s Envy’s aroma, displaying it more prominently on the palate. An excellent pairing from both sides.