By Richard Thomas
One of the annual bourbon releases I look forward to each year is the Angel’s Envy Cask Strength, and I do so for three reasons. For starters, I have a soft spot for Angel’s Envy. As I once told Kevin Curtis, their distillery manager, a Port-finished bourbon was making the Kentucky-Portugal connection, my life story in a bottle.
This is also one of those annual releases that, if what I have been told has any truth to it, I played a small role in making into an annual release by being an early and vocal supporter. Finally, I’ve found it a consistently easy drinking cask strength bourbon, and whenever cask strength crosses the 120 proof line easy drinking isn’t a guarantee.
This year’s run is 7,500 bottles and antes up at 127.9 proof (63.95% abv), a full notch higher than past examples. That is in keeping with a point that has gone poorly observed in American whiskey circles: a lot of high proof, limited edition releases out this year scored well above average in the alcohol content department.
Even a modest pour of this bourbon retains a dark amber character, like a coppery brown syrup. The nose is pleasant and easy, and even a deep draw doesn’t burn. It smacks of deep caramel and vanilla with notes of toasty nuts, floral orange zest, and just a hint of elderberry. It’s a scent that is a bit big and bold, but also a bit subtle.
If the nose didn’t require water, I thought tasting it put it right on the line. I could drink it and like it without, sure, but I had the feeling a few drops would improve it. So, a few drops it got.
That done, the flavor was like a trip to the candy fair, with candy corn sweetness and licorice washed down with sarsaparilla. The elderberries are there again, and an odd dash of black pepper. The finish leaves a very core bourbon aftertaste coating the mouth, with a lasting, solid ball of warmth.
This is the least Porty of all the Angel’s Envy whiskeys I have yet tried, with that persistent, but very much in the background elderberry note really being the only thing that clearly points to the ruby Port casks. For that reason it is my least favorite so far, but that said it’s still a fine bourbon.
Recommended retail for this whiskey is $159.