Henderson’s Exceptional Tribute—Angel’s Envy Cask Strength

Even as we mourn the passing of Bourbon legend Lincoln Henderson, who died 10 days ago, we get another chance to experience the remarkable touch of the man who was in charge of Angel's Envy and who once crafted Old Forester and Woodford Reserve.

The master distiller's Angel's Envy Cask Strength, finished in Port barrels, will be made available in October in a follow-up release to the whiskey that debuted last year to rave reviews. While still tiny (4,200 bottles), the release covers four times as many markets (eight) as its original appearance (two). The first release sold out in weeks. The new release will be sold in California, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York, Tennessee and Texas.

Henderson, a man of unbounded talent and incisive wit, worked in the industry for 40 years, retiring in 2004 as the master distiller who oversaw all of Brown-Forman whiskeys, including Jack Daniel's.

With Brown-Forman, he helped to develop Woodford Reserve, Gentleman Jack and Jack Daniel's Single Barrel. Along the way he tasted some 430,000 barrels of whiskey, according to the company.

Bourbon legend Lincoln Henderson.
Bourbon legend Lincoln Henderson.

He came out of retirement in 2006 to create Angel's Envy with his son Wes Henderson, chief operating officer, and grandson Kyle. His career there was marked by a number of releases of cherry-picked barrels with diverse and interesting wood finishes, including rum, brandy and Tequila. He has said that he began experimenting with finishing techniques even when he was with Brown-Forman.

Henderson was inducted into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame, as well as earning the lifetime achievement award from Whisky Advocate magazine, a sister publication of Cigar Aficionado.

This latest whiskey was from a batch of spirits aged up to eight years. After marrying, it was moved to Port barrels for up to three years (an extremely long finish). As the name suggests, it is bottled at cask strength, no water added. For this whiskey, that level is a whopping 123 proof.

Whatever the strength, it is a fitting tribute to Henderson. Thanks for everything, Lincoln.

(Cigar pairings on next page)

Angel's Envy Cask Strength, finished in Port barrels (123 proof, or 61.5 alcohol by volume; no age statement; $149 per 750-milliliter bottle)

APPEARANCE: Deep orange cast to its amber lilt. Unwillingly gives up its legs, which start as tiny beads and turn to rain drops.

NOSE: Comes on strong with hard candy—orange peel and plum. Softens through layers of wood, vanilla blossoms, tea and rose.

PALATE: Ladles onto the tongue like a licorice elixir with a heated dose of alcohol. Then becomes an arbor of exquisite wood flavors that plays bitter, sour, sweet, and savory. A confection of maple syrup and some pears follow that.

FINISH: The real treat is the finish, however. As well as lasting forever, it peddles in all the charms, and then some, of the palate. The Port wood chimes in as well as some Christmas cake. You'll be tempted to return to the glass. Do it. At the palate's second go-around, the taste sensors are on high alert and every one of the highlights of the first coming is trumpeted.

Alec Bradley Family Blend M23 (7 inches by 50 ring gauge, $7.50, 90 Points, Cigar Aficionado October 2013).There's a pigtail and three-seam cap atop this Churchill, which has a piquant, spicy character and a juniper, gin-like aftertaste. The leather in this cigar underlines every savory aspect of the whiskey, from caramel and toffee to rich woods to hearty wine. The Angel's Envy then goes and exposes the nutty core of the Alec Bradley. Brilliant pairing.

Padrón Serie 1926 No. 9 (5 1/4 inches by 56 ring gauge, $19.00, 93 Points, Cigar Aficionado October 2013). Bracingly spicy, this delicious cigar delivers espresso, cedar and loads of coffee bean flavor. It is well-balanced, and the draw is superb. Lock me away with this set up. Cigar and whiskey harmonize on a celestial level. Recognizing where one's influence leaves off and the other's begins is almost impossible. The whole affair turns into a candy bar of chocolate, nougat, caramel and nuts, laced with leather. The Envy takes on a Cognac aspect and the cigar becomes even richer. An exceptional pairing.

"One of the best. We will miss him. JD" —October 4, 2013 13:35 PM
"I guess 123 proof whiskey will do that to your spelling and syntax, Jack...sounds wonderful anyway." —September 21, 2013 22:51 PM