By Richard Thomas
The folks at Angel’s Envy made their first limited edition release quite a doozy, going with a cask strength version of their signature port-finished bourbon. I’ve had a growing interest in portwood-finished whiskey, given how it brings together where I live (Portugal) with my beloved whiskey, going so far as to think of Angel’s Envy itself as being my youth in Kentucky and my married life combined into a bottle. I was therefore very excited when I had finally caught up on my whiskey work enough to finally get to my sample of the Angel’s Envy Cask Strength Bourbon, a truly rare bird with only 600 bottles released in Kentucky and Tennessee.
This whiskey is essentially a batch of selected barrels of regular Angel’s Envy, finished in the customary port barrels, left uncut and bottled at 121 proof (60.5% abv). The bottle itself is the standard artsy Angel’s Envy packaging, with an additional label at the bottom denoting that it’s a cask strength limited edition. So, if you see an Angel’s Envy bottle in the locked display case at your favorite liquor store, give it a second look, since it’s probably this stuff.
The bourbon has a luxuriously dark, deep red maple-amber color. The nose imparts deep wood flavors, with aspects of strong vanilla and an oaky bite. The sweetness is buttressed by a tart port note. Although the scent is certainly thick, it is not particularly alcoholic, despite the high proof.
The flavor of the Angel’s Envy Cask Strength is syrupy sweet, heavy with vanilla and just a drop of caramel. The oak is there too, with a musty, old barrel tinge to it. After the liquid has been in your mouth a short time, a clovey, spicy bite grows up out of the whiskey, coating the interior of your mouth with warmth.
Despite that spicy close to the taste and the high proof, the whiskey goes down quite mellow, as any good cask strength whiskey should. Even so, the spicy coating in your mouth lingers on for some time, and the finish is long and moderately warm.
Some recommend putting a splash of water into a strong whiskey such as this one, but I find that a well-done bourbon with an abv in the lower 60s is smooth enough to do just fine on its own. If water is your thing, by all means have at it, but don’t feel like water is necessary to tone the bourbon down. This whiskey doesn’t need it.
The Angel’s Envy Cask Strength has a character that is boldly flavorful, but not so much so that it smothers the complexity of the whiskey itself or the port finish. I certainly hope the 600 bottles Angel’s Envy turned out in 2012 are not the last cask strength release the company has in mind.
As you might expect from a limited release, this stuff ain’t cheap. Expect to pay $149, and that’s assuming the vendor hasn’t marked it up.