Dan’s (not quite) Bourbon of the Week: Angel’s Envy Rye

Dan’s (not quite) Bourbon of the Week: Angel’s Envy Rye

First of all…Happy New Year!  Hopefully you had a wonderful holiday season, full of merriment, joy and bourbon.  I most certainly did, so much so that I’m just now saying Happy New Year on the 12th of January!  I would be lying if I didn’t admit that part of the delay in posting a blog was due to football – between my Missouri Tigers winning a New Years Day bowl and my beloved Detroit Lions losing a game to the Dallas Referees Cowboys, I’ve been wrapped up in football fever.

One of the best things about being emotionally invested in football this time of year is gathering with friends and coping with the nervousness of a tight game by sampling a new whiskey or two.  And that is exactly what we did as time ran down on the Lions-Cowboys.  We opened a bottle of Angel’s Envy Rye and tried something new.

I first had Angel’s Envy Rye last year at the Bourbon Classic.  I admit, by the time I sampled it, I had partaken of a few other whiskies and my palate wasn’t quite as clean as I’d like for a review.  But even then, I knew there was something very different about this pour.  It took a little longer for the A.E. Rye to make it to Michigan, so in May I purchased a bottle while in Maryland to have for myself.  This seemed the perfect opportunity to try it.

Dan’s (not quite) Bourbon of the Week: Angel's Envy Rye
Dan’s (not quite) Bourbon of the Week: Angel’s Envy Rye

Few bourbons have grown on me like Angel’s Envy has.  When I first reviewed it last year, I thought it remarkably smooth and clean – and a little dull.  And I still think that it is one of the less complex bourbons I’ve had, in that price range anyway.  But given the choice between a glass of Angel’s Envy and most other readily available bourbons, I have found I will choose the Angel’s Envy consistently. That has even included Kentucky Derby day!  So what of this Rye?

I remember trying it at the Bourbon Classic and thinking “this is like candy!”  And why not – Angel’s Envy Rye is finished for “up to 18 months” in Plantation XO Rum casks.  So they take a rye whiskey, and then age it for a year and a half in rum casks before bottling it at 100 proof.  Sound interesting?  It certainly tastes interesting.

Dan’s Take:

Angel’s Envy Rye comes in the same style attractive bottle as its sister.  It’s a little pricier ($60-80), and a little harder to find.  I have read from others that it is an MGP/LDI sourced rye, so it shares characteristics with Bulleit. And let’s skip to the chase – if you like your rye whiskies tough, spicy and hot, this isn’t the one for you.  But if you like something with some sweetness, read on.

This rye has a nose that’s as exotic as the trip these barrels have seen.  There is little of the typical whiskey bite – rather, a sweet bouquet of orange peel, brown sugar, coconut and pear melt with a soft rye scent of clove, cinnamon and allspice.  This smells sugary, much more like a rum than a whiskey, and it’s light and pleasant.

The taste has a lot going on.  It has a thickness to it, creamy and buttery but with many of those same rum characteristics.  Honey and cinnamon, with a touch that could even be pineapple.  The toasted oak is very light, and the rye doesn’t fully blossom until the back of the palate.  The higher proof also shows through, and it does have a bit of a bite in the back end (if only because it started so sweet).  Make no mistake, it tastes like whiskey, not rum, but the typical pepper of rye is far offset by the sweetness that envelopes.

The finish is, admittedly, a bit confusing.  The rye notes are there, with their spice and slight burn, but there is the thickness of rum as well.  The sweetness, so nice in the sip, is a bit muddled in the finish.

I like sweet drinks, and I like mellower whiskies, so I rate this one with a pretty big caveat – this is not your grandfather’s rye.  It may share a recipe with Bulleit or Dickel, but the finishing makes it wholly unique.  This is a great whiskey for a summer night, I believe (or a winter night you want to pretend).  As a taste profile, it might even be closer to the glut of “flavored” whiskeys on the market – but it has a few things none of them seem to: it’s made of a solid product to start, and the flavor is much more natural than any maple or honey additive found in one of those products.  So my rating is for someone who, like me, has a sweet tooth now and again.

Dan’s Rating: 8.1

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Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Angel’s Envy

Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Angel’s Envy

It’s cold here in Detroit. Damn cold. A “polar vortex!” The kind of brutal cold that makes you want to curl up by the fire with a good book or, in the case of my wife, all six seasons of Breaking Bad.  At once.  Yikes.

Personally, I prefer the warmth that comes from sipping a great bourbon.  So with that in mind, with the snow shoveling done and the wind howling, I perused my bourbon cabinet, and decided to try the unique looking bottle of Angel’s Envy.

Dan's Bourbon of the Week: Angel's Envy
Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Angel’s Envy

I will admit I had a bit of a grudge against Angel’s Envy.  When I first started making myself a nuisance around liquor stores, seeking out new bourbons to try and review, store keeper after store keeper would push Angel’s Envy on me.  It started to get obnoxious – I’m looking on the backs of shelves for a forgotten single barrel, a neglected micro distillery bottle or a dusty bottle of Pappy or Stagg, and aggressive sales people kept telling me “try Angel’s Envy.”  So I began to rebel against the thought of it, and didn’t pick up a bottle.

Well, this Christmas, I received a bottle as a gift, so there was no need to boycott it anymore.  So while the gales blew outside, I popped the cork and poured a glass.

Angel’s Envy has been on the scene for a couple years, a unique bourbon with two claims to fame – one that it was created by the Master Distiller Lincoln Henderson, the taste buds behind Woodford Reserve’s introduction in the mid-90s, as well as the creation of Gentleman Jack Tennessee Whiskey; and two that it is a bourbon finished in Port Wine ‘pipes’ or barrels.  Angel’s Envy hit the shelves in 2011, and didn’t take long to make a big splash.

Mr. Henderson passed away this last year, but the spirit he created in Angel’s Envy continues to live on.

My take:  It has a distinctive bottle and it a sharp looking product.  In the glass is is a lighter amber color than most of the bourbons I’ve sampled, more transparent and less thick looking.

But my goodness the nose – Angel’s Envy has a fantastic nose. There is a sweetness, like maple syrup and brown sugar. I also noted something reminiscent of raisins. With eyes closed, the sweetness came with each sniff – slight caramel, hints of vanilla.  This had one of my favorite noses of all time.

After such a spectacular nose, I had a hunch the taste may let me down, and it did, if only a bit.  Not that it was bad – far from.  It was smooth and there were no unreasonable tastes.  Mainly I noted soft corn, a hint of cinnamon and clove, and a very light vanilla.  It didn’t burn, and no particular flavor jumped to the forefront.  It was a fine, pleasant, and rather thin mouth-feeling bourbon.  The finish was long and warm, and only then did you get a hint of the port wine that it was finished in.

When we were done, my wife Jen and I looked for the right words to describe it and struggled a bit.  It was smooth, clean, almost too pure.  I would not hesitate offering a glass to a non-bourbon drinker as something they might well enjoy.  It was like…

…Gentleman Jack.  It hit me that it’s smooth, tasteful but ultimately safe pour reminded me of Gentleman Jack, the smooth, tasteful but ultimately safe pour Tennessee Whiskey I enjoy when I’m not feeling like a bourbon.  The fact that both are recipes from the same man only encouraged this feeling.

I love GJ, and I like AE.  It might not be the bourbon I would pour for the adventurous bourbon palette, and it doesn’t have the aged taste of a great bourbon.  But it is a also a drink you could have anytime without concern it would be the wrong taste for the moment either.  If it was a plain whiskey, I would give it something in the mid or high 8’s, but as it is a bourbon…

Dan’s scale (1-10): 7.8

*there is a cask strength Angel’s Envy, which I am looking to score a bottle of.  I have a hunch in a higher proof, I would like this bourbon even more and note certain flavors much more.