A big thanks to Aaron at Ro-Bro who kindly sent me a review sample of the 2015 limited release (7500 bottles) of cask-strength bourbon from Angel’s Envy. (See my review of last year’s release here).
I have a lot of respect for Angel’s Envy. They take sourced bourbon of between 4 and 7 years of age (like so many other companies) – blended from two or more different Kentucky distilleries making Straight Bourbon – and make it magical with expert cask selection and finishing in port (or rum, for the rye) casks. In fact, their standard port-finished bourbon is one of my cabinet regulars.
Their new distillery is already producing spirit, which means in 2020 we might start seeing some bottled Angel’s Envy with their own juice (or earlier, if it’s good enough to bottle at younger than 6 years).
This batch of 7500 bottles represents a now-traditional annual limited release in the same vein as Four Roses Limited editions and the BTAC annual releases. In other words, it’s super expensive and guaranteed to sell out quickly. This year’s batch is bottled at a whopping 63.95% ABV, which is about 4% higher than last year’s.
Nose: Candy corn, fresh juicy peaches, dried apple slices. A little deeper in there’s creamed corn, fresh hay, and a deep, heavy, buttery oakiness. The sweet/sugary notes are minor, mostly burnt caramel and a hint of maple sugar. After a rest in the glass, the aroma is heavy with bright, vivid fruit punch.
Palate: Hot. So very hot! Untempered, that 64% ABV is some serious business. After the flames die down and your eyes stop watering, there is sparkly ground cinnamon, fresh snappy red apples, cinnamon red-hots, and a light non-cloying general sweetness, like a light brown sugar glaze.
Finish: Medium-long. Slightly bitter oaky tannins only at first and then a few passing tart notes (red plums, lemon peel) and a mouth-coating Red Delicious apple skin note that hangs on for quite awhile at the end.
With Water: A small splash of water brings out a little more sweetness on the nose (caramel/butterscotch), but at the cost of some of the intensity of the other notes. The palate is much more friendly, with pleasant fruit notes co-mingling with light oak and toffee. The finish is unchanged. I highly recommend some water with this (if you have a whole bottle, also try watering a small glass down to around 46% and see how different it is) unless you think you can handle the burn of a sip at cask strength, which has the benefit of more intense flavors all around.
Overall: This is a damn tasty whiskey. What I’ve always liked about Angel’s Envy is its ability to transcend the bourbon clichés and deliver both subtlety and complexity in a way that other, heavier bourbons just can’t. At cask strength, you have an iron fist in a velvet glove – those same subtle, complex elements are thrust in your face and burned onto your tongue, for better or for worse. Priced at or above $160, it’s your decision whether that sounds enticing enough to justify that chunk of change. For me, it’s a reserved “Must Try” (good luck!).