If bourbon is an old industry based in tradition, Angel’s Envy is the teenaged rebel. Compared to many of its generations-old predecessors, Angel’s Envy is a young brand that doesn’t always play by the rules. It’s among the first of American whiskey brands to use a double-maturation process that’s commonly used in Scotch production, and its original expression is aged in both new charred American oak and former port casks.
Since its launch in 2011, Angel’s Envy’s unique take on Kentucky bourbon has turned the brand into a household name — showing that even the most old school of spirits can do for an update every now and again.
What started out as a family dream (and retirement project) has now blossomed into a bourbon brand available in all 50 states and several countries around the globe. In fact, as of February 2020, Angel’s Envy began international distribution in the U.K., Australia, Canada, and Singapore. What’s more, the young company has three generations of the Henderson family in its ranks. Here are 10 more gems you should know about Angel’s Envy.
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Angel’s Envy ended a master distiller’s retirement.
Angel’s Envy began as an idea shared between a father and his son. Master distiller Lincoln Henderson had been retired for several years when his son, Wes, first approached him about going into business together. By then, Lincoln had already made a significant impact in the world of distilling. For example, during his years at Brown-Forman, one of America’s largest spirits and wine companies, Lincoln developed renowned brands such as Woodford Reserve and Gentleman Jack.
Despite being in “retirement,” Lincoln kept his finger on the pulse of the whiskey industry with occasional consulting work. Meanwhile, his son Wes had served as the CEO for Master Distiller Select LLC. Prior to that, he was the President and CEO of Conecuh Ridge Distillery, the producer of Clyde May’s Whiskey. Wes convinced his father to come out of retirement to bring to fruition Lincoln’s vision of launching a bourbon brand as a family. Wes’s oldest son, Kyle, soon joined the business, eventually followed by his younger sons Andrew, Spencer, and Connor.
It’s American-made, and Scotch-inspired.
Wes and Lincoln decided to explore secondary barrel finishing, such as using port barrels, a technique commonly used in Scotch that was rarely seen in bourbon. While a few other brands offer finished bourbons, usually through extremely limited releases, Angel’s Envy was among the first American brands to commit to the concept and release core bourbons and ryes using finishing barrels. It’s also the most commercially successful brand that uses the technique.
Flavors can vary widely from barrel to barrel, so Angel’s Envy blends in small batches to ensure that each one meets the same consistent standard of flavor.
Angel’s Envy thinks highly of itself.
The small percentage of spirit lost each year during barrel aging to evaporation is traditionally called the “angel’s share.” Reportedly, after tasting his finished bourbon, Lincoln joked that if the angel’s share is what evaporates, then the angels envy is what’s left in the barrel. Thus, Angel’s Envy was born.
Every bottle’s cork is freshly out of date.
Though the brand’s first whiskey was supposed to be released in October of 2010, master distiller Lincoln delayed the launch six months until he deemed the liquid perfect. However, the bottles were already stamped with the formerly planned launch date: 10/10. Angel’s Envy has purposely refrained from updating its corks, keeping the 10/10 as a reminder that, when it comes to whiskey, perfection is worth waiting for.
Every year, Angel’s Envy fans plant thousands of trees without lifting a finger.
In celebration of National Bourbon Heritage Month each September, Angel’s Envy hosts its Toast the Trees initiative, calling on fans to support the brand and the requisite white oak that makes it so tasty. The goal of the program is to raise awareness around the increased need for a healthy and secure white oak tree population, particularly as bourbon’s popularity continues to grow both in the States and internationally.
It’s a pretty good deal: Angel’s Envy plants a tree for each task fans complete. Share a photo with the #ToastTheTrees hashtag, the company plants a tree. Or, an even better challenge: Take a quiz about oak’s role in bourbon production, and the more right answers you get, the more trees get planted. The more trees, the more barrels; and the more barrels, the more bourbon.
Angel’s Envy’s Japanese Mizunara-finished bourbon has wings.
Angel’s Envy recently released its limited-edition Kentucky Straight Bourbon Finished in Japanese Mizunara Oak Casks in celebration of the 10th anniversary of its Founder’s Day. It took Production Manager Kyle Henderson five years to source the rare, unused Mizunara barrels that were used to finish the release. According to reviews, the full-bodied whiskey exhibits notes of apple, smoke, and black pepper. Coming in a reusable crystal decanter adorned with angel wings, this bottle is sold for $350.
The brand took distilling downtown — a Louisville first.
Though Angel’s Envy launched in 2011, it didn’t have its own distillery until 2013. Until July 9, 2013, when the brand broke ground on its distillery in downtown Louisville, Angel’s Envy was using small batches of whiskey sourced from various distilleries. Distilling in this particular building was particularly meaningful to Lincoln, as his own father had worked there years prior. The distillery was completed and opened to the public in 2016, becoming the first full-production whiskey distillery in downtown Louisville.
The downtown distillery had an opening day hiccup. (Or, more of a sneeze.)
On the very first day the distillery was open, according to a spokesperson, Angel’s Envy production needed to mill malted barley — which is used in the mash — into the cooker. However, instead of the barley going into the tanks, it was blown into the actual mill room, resulting in a foot and a half of malted barley covering the floor. It took six hours, and many employees, to clean the space.
The brand relies on word-of-mouth marketing.
Angel’s Envy has a team of more than 50 Whiskey Guardians, local spirits experts whose job it is to educate their communities about bourbon — specifically Angel’s Envy. With members based everywhere from Singapore, to Melbourne, to Louisville, the program was created based on the belief that the best way to reach a new community is through the people who already live and work there. Whiskey Guardians are lovers of the spirit who are highly active in their local hospitality communities. They host Angel’s Envy events for their local communities, spreading the word about the brand.
Angel’s Envy is flying off shelves around the world.
In less than 10 years since its initial 2011 launch, the bourbon has expanded distribution to all 50 U.S. states. And, as of February 2020, Angel’s Envy began international distribution in the U.K., Australia, Canada, and Singapore.