June 3, 2013
A big thanks to Aaron at Deep Focus who kindly sent me a review sample of the new rye from Angel’s Envy. The brainchild of Master Distiller Lincoln Henderson, Angel’s Envy rocked the American whisky scene awhile back with its modern take on bourbon. Now their second release, a 95% rye whiskey finished in Caribbean rum casks, briefly hit the shelves before promptly selling out everywhere (near me, anyway). This, despite its frankly usurious price point of $70 – $80.
The rye almost certainly hails from Midwest Grain Products (formerly LDI), where a lot of independently-bottled ryes are made these days. The mashbill is 95% rye and 5% malted barley. The rye is aged for six years in new American oak barrels, and then transferred for 18 months to some hand-selected Caribbean rum casks. Sourcing the rum casks appears to have been quite an ordeal, with Lincoln Henderson quoted as saying that 100 different rums were sampled before making the choice. The result was bottled in the iconic Italian glass “angel wing” bottles at 50% ABV, an upgrade in bottling proof from the company’s port-finished bourbon.
Nose: Spicy! Assorted baking spices (clove, cinnamon, etc.), with a deep undercurrent of molasses. The rum character is evident with fresh cane juice, coconut, and a very heavy caramelized sugar note. Something vegetal as well – root beer? Sweetness and spice alternate for dominance in the nose. Very robust.
Palate: Mulled cider, black pepper, caramels. Molasses again – here the rum is even more clear. Tastes almost like blackstrap rum. At 50% ABV, the burn is present, but the sweetness compensates nicely. A lot of flavor here.
Finish: Quite long. Crystallized ginger, cloves, and burnt sugar on the fade-out. The burnt sugar note gets a little too acrid for me, but another sip takes care of that.
With Water: A few drops of water release a wave of black licorice and cake frosting. The same appear on the palate. This definitely benefits from just a little bit of water.
Overall: This is a spice bomb and no joke. All of the usual rye character is present, in spades, with a healthy layer of caramelized sugary rum. The interplay is as natural as spices in cider, or brown sugar in spice cake. The bottling proof was a good choice, as everything (flavor, aroma) is amped up equally, and without numbing my tongue. For seven-and-a-half years old, this comes off as big and flavorful and slightly older than it is. I would have awarded a “Must Try” if the whiskey were either cheaper, or more available. I can’t love the price, or the shortages, but I can love this sample for as long as it lasts…