A big thanks to Aaron at Ro-Bro who kindly sent me a review sample of the new cask-strength bourbon from Angel’s Envy. First off, this is not your usual cask-strength release of a flagship product where they simply leave out the water. This limited release (6500 bottles) comes from cherry-picked barrels aged up to 7 years, and thus functions like the “Limited Edition Small Batch” from Four Roses. As with the regular Angel’s Envy, this bourbon is finished in port casks. The price, a whopping $169 suggested retail, shows just how far controversial upstart Angel’s Envy has come since its first release in 2010, and also how crazily inflated the whisky market has become. If you had told anyone in the liquor business four years ago that an under-seven-year-old bourbon would sell (and certainly sell out) for $169 a bottle, they’d have laughed at you.
Nose: Hot (strong alcohol fumes). Ruby port, grapefruit, honeycomb, and a deep, round woodiness. Under the blanket of alcohol, there’s roasted chestnuts, cherry cordial, and charcoal. There actually isn’t as much fruit on the nose as I expected. After a few minutes of rest in the glass, it develops an awesome, heady vanilla buttercream frosting aroma. Really – wow.
Palate: Moderate tongue-burn. Barrel tannins are immediately apparent, and then blackberry jam, butterscotch, and cherry ice cream.
Finish: Long and warming. A nice, tart wave of mixed berries fades into spun sugar, which becomes burnt caramel and then charcoal. Never bitter.
With Water: A few drops of water increase the vanilla frosting note in the aroma, and might be making the flavor and finish nuttier. A more aggressive watering (to around 40% ABV) yields unripe berries and kiwi on the nose. Seriously, kiwi. However, this makes it slightly anemic (at least in comparison to full strength) on the tongue. I’d shoot for around 50% ABV if you want to tame the fire.
Overall: I definitely suggest letting this open up in the glass for a few minutes – you want that initial nuclear mushroom-cloud of alcohol to dissipate and that head of vanilla frosting to develop before nosing. As with other Angel’s Envy releases, you can count on the bourbon component to complement (not overwhelm) the port finish. However, the high proof of this release amps both up, so that intense berry/fruit flavors compete with concentrated oak and corn syrup flavors. While the flagship Angel’s Envy pairs easy-sipping, soft, subtle bourbon with port wood, at cask strength the mixture is much denser and loses some of that subtlety. You’re best off tasting this at full proof (after the rest), and then watering it down to around 50% to get the best of both worlds. I think it’s an excellent whisky, and really shows what Angel’s Envy is capable of. I can’t love the price point, however, no matter how carefully hand-picked the casks are.