All whiskymakers face a common “issue” when ageing their whiskies and that is that every year a percentage of the spirit inside a barrel evaporates. This evaporation is necessary for the “flavour making” process, but considering the fact that in some climates distillers lose as much as 15% a year, you might understand why it can be harsh blow, nonetheless. In a joking manner this loss is called the “Angel’s Share” every year the angels take their portion of the spirit and in return make it taste a little better. In a playful twist the makers of Angel’s Envy stated that if the spirit that evaporated was the Angel’s “Share” than what remains in the cask was the Angel’s “Envy”. And thus, the brands name was born.
But the fact that Angel’s Envy became so famous has nothing to do with the Angel’s Share, yet everything with the fact that they finish their Bourbon and Rye’s. Nowadays we see more and more finished American Whiskies, but back when Angel’s Envy started doing it, it was still highly uncommon. What makes this feat even more impressive is that their entire line-up consists of finished products, which is represented aptly in their slogan: “When other Bourbons stop Angel’s Envy Finishes”. Today we will be trying the Bourbon that started it all, their Port Wine Finished Straight Bourbon!
Tasting Notes: Angel’s Envy – Port Wine Finish
ABV: 43,3% (86,6 Proof)
Age: NAS (No Age Statement)
Cask: Aged in new charred oak and finished in Port Wine barrels
Distillery: Angel’s Envy
Category: Finished Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Natural Colour: Yes (by regulation all bourbon is free from added colouring)
On the nose it’s immediately apparent that we’re not dealing with your standard bourbon here. There are some classical bourbon notes here for sure, such as vanilla, brown sugar and molasses. But there’s also red fruit, such as strawberries, cherries and raspberries and those are not notes you find as often in a bourbon. Those would be the effect of the finish in Port Wine barrels. It adds an appreciated complexity to this bourbon and makes it quite unique.
On the palate it’s a much more intense experience that the nose would have led you to believe. A fair amount of tannins from the new charred oak have made their way into the dram and it provides a very pleasant bitter counterpart to the sweetness in this dram. Molasses, vanilla and brown sugar remain its most noticeable counterparts but there’s some fruit here as well. Specifically dried fruits such as dried strawberries, dried plums and dates. The ever so slight hint of mint rounds this dram off beautifully.
The finish is long and lingering and it’s cherries, cake icing, molasses and liquorice root that become the most apparent notes here. Sometimes when a dram has an above average influence of tannins on the palate it can become a bit overwhelming on the finish, but that is not the case here. It’s mellow, pleasant and well-balanced. A finish to comfortably spend a fair amount of time with.
In the United States they have known for years just how much bourbon as a category has to offer and they didn’t even need a finished bourbon for that. But still, on our side of the pond it’s met with a lot of skepticism. Whether it’s because of misconceptions that because of the use of corn all bourbon’s are sweet (while in fact the sweetness in bourbon comes from the new charred barrels it’s aged in) or that they supposedly all taste the same… It’s product such as this Angel’s Envy that can bring people to the category to discover a whole new world of flavours to explore.
Nowadays more and more American Whiskies are becoming available on the European market and I for one am happy that this Angel’s Envy is a part of that, because this – to me – is a delicious indulgence. The balance between the fruity influences from the Port Wine barrels and the sweeter “classical” bourbon flavours works a treat!