Updated November 19, 2015
By S.D. Peters
Average Rating: B+
Angel’s Envy Rye Whiskey is due to hit select markets in May 2013. This limited expression in the Angel’s Envy line will be available only in the U.S., in only a handful of states. Angel’s Envy has already produced A-grade Bourbon with their Kentucky Straight Bourbon and Cask Strength Bourbon, so expectations are suitably high for their take on America’s classic whiskey.
Angel’s Envy gets things started with 95% rye and 5% malted barley mashbill. A decent percentage of corn can really bring out Rye’s spicier notes (look no further, no more affordably, than Jim Beam Straight Rye for proof), but the very best Ryes I’ve found are those made from 100% rye, such as Masterson’s and Whistle Pig, so a Rye of 95% rye with malted barley hints at joining the ranks of the latter category.
The Rye is aged for at least six years in charred oak barrels. Nothing unusual about that, unless you consider that many other newer entries in the Rye market are aged for much less. It’s at this point, however, that Master Distiller – or should I say Renegade Distiller? – Lincoln Henderson pitches his change-up: his Rye is “finished in hand-selected Caribbean rum casks, which began as French cognac barrels, for up to 18 months.” And that, it seems, makes all the difference.
The result is a 100 Proof (50% ABV) Rye whiskey as unique as the Angel’s Envy bottle in which it’s sold. Mingling the “raw, spicy and earthy rye… with the sweetness imparted by rum finishing” makes sense in theory. Given that corn’s sweetness is a proven compliment to Rye’s spice, why not be bold in choosing an alternate compliment?
Does it work? The answer will depend on your expectations of Rye.
The color has a rustic fireplace glow about it, and I don’t make that comparison lightly. The aroma of gingersnaps, maple sugar, and allspice is redolent of Holiday Cheer. A touch of black pepper, an exotic hint pineapple, and a whisper of coconut are pleasant, but struggle to balance the powerful holiday sweetness.
The ginger and maple persist deep into the flavor, though a dash of white pepper and a shaving of bitter chocolate offer some respite. And the finish? Medium-long, with a mild nip about the edges, but predominately gingersnap and maple sugar. A surprising burst of coconut sourball arrives late, but doesn’t stay long.
Ginger is the representative spice here – a pleasing variation of the Rye tradition – but the maple hedges it at every turn, making for a consistent sweetness. There’s something to be said for consistency in the Distiller’s Art; it’s a feat that, coupled with the general olfactory pleasantness of gingered maple, pushes Angel’s Envy Rye above-average. However, for a whiskey that’s mostly rye, that consistency disappoints where a more balanced interplay between sweet and spice would be preferred. Angel’s Envy has found something very promising in its choice of finishing for this Rye, yet it’s hard to discern more than a shadow of the whiskey’s chief character in this expression.
Addendum By Father John Rayls
I remember as a kid when I was introduced to genuine Vermont Maple Sugar Candies. It was almost an out of body experience. It seemed humanly impossible for anything from this earth to taste that good. Not living near Vermont, I had very few experiences with them. However, they marked me for life and I never forgot.
I had a very similar experience and reaction last night as I was introduced to Angels Envy Rye (4K Batch) for the first time. I belong to a small group of whiskey loving friends and they were unanimous that I needed to try this whiskey. To be honest, I was very skeptical because I’m not a big fan of the distillery’s flagship product or their pricing. In addition, I had read a previous review of this product here on The Whiskey Reviewer which had given it a B, but I had also heard multiple batches were available with some much better than others (Editor’s Note: S.D. Peters wrote up the first batch). Other negatives for some purists would also include a rum finish (sweet) and the fact that it is a sourced whiskey from near where I grew up in Indiana (negative not because I grew up there, but because it’s sourced!).
It’s appearance is a darker golden hue in the instantly recognizable bottle. It has a slightly lighter color in the glass. The legs are long, but its viscosity is on the thinner end of the spectrum. The nose was much more of a mystery to me. Originally, I considered the aromas to be very subtle. However, I made a surprising discovery. The longer I allowed this whiskey to breath, the more prominent (and wonderful!) the various aromas. It didn’t seem to affect the taste, but the aromas just continued to be released and enhanced and continued to grow. Part of my bias is that I really appreciate a good rum (neat) and this smelled like a very good rum with brown sugar, maple, leather and faint oak. The nose was very apparent, but in a very inviting, seductive way.
The real surprise came with the very first sip. There was a slight coating of the mouth (more than I expected) as the taste began exploding all over the tongue. It began slightly earlier at the front of the mouth and quickly jumped to the back. It was very warm and very pleasant. If I had been blind tasting it, I might have mistaken it for an after dinner dessert liquor. Although, it wasn’t quite that sweet and retained all the qualities of a rye whiskey. This 100 proof whiskey seems to be an almost perfect blending of a quiet rye spiciness with a slightly creamy, sweet Caribbean rum finish. There are definite notes of honey, brown sugar, cinnamon raisin, sweet rye and a faint oakiness. I just kept thinking I should have selected a larger whiskey glass because I have to keep refilling this one. It’s just that good.
Angel’s Envy Rye Whiskey will have limited distribution stateside in California, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusettes, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas. With only 2,500 9-liter cases being released, it will be a rare commodity – and one worth finding if you are inspired by the very unique in whiskey craft. The average cost for a 750 ml botttle is $69.99.