I have boundless admiration for Lincoln Henderson. His resume is formidable: master distiller for Brown-Forman for nearly four decades; member of the inaugural class of the Bourbon Hall of Fame; the man who developed Ancient Age, Gentleman Jack, Jack Daniels Single Barrel and Woodford Reserve. His work ethic is even more impressive. At a stage of life when most people have earned their rocking chair on the porch or their condo in Florida (God forbid), Henderson went back to work.
What did he choose to do in his “retirement”? Make Bourbon, of course. Along with his son Wes and grandson Kyle, he founded his own small batch label called Angel’s Envy. The stunning Bourbon is aged for a minimum of four years in new, charred American oak barrels, then finished in casks that previously held Port wine---one of the key factors that gives Angel’s Envy its remarkable richness and smoothness.
Now, Henderson and his crew have unveiled their latest project: the limited-edition Angel’s Envy Rye. Once again, the process is unconventional. Composed of 95% rye and 5% malted barley, the spirit ages in traditional white oak casks for six years before being finished for 18 months in rum barrels that had also been used to mature French Cognac. According to Henderson, the team sourced and sampled over 100 different rums before making their selection. Only 2500 cases will be released. The spirit was bottled at 100 proof (50% ABV) and will sell for $70.
The nose displays the tell-tale imprint of those Caribbean rum casks---suggestions of sweetness and faint hints of molasses, with a powerful herbal presence lurking underneath. Taken neat, the first sip is a blockbuster, revealing all the raw power you would expect; the sweetness lingers throughout the mid palate, intertwined beautifully with the earthiness of the grains. The finish is extremely long and resonant, filled with echoes of caramel and vanilla. Though this is a singular and beautiful rye, it’s likely not something that most people will consume in a snifter. It makes a spectacular Manhattan, obviously, and also lends itself well to classics such as the Sazerac (rye, Herbsaint and Peychaud’s Bitters) or the more complex Brooklyn (rye, dry vermouth, maraschino liqueur and Amer Picon).
Mark Spivak is the author of iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History, published by Lyons Press (Globe Pequot); for more information, go to amazon.com