By Richard Thomas
I think of myself as having a special, if informal, relationship with the Angel’s Envy Cask Strength. When Angel’s Envy first came out, it was the first sourced Bourbon brand to build it’s identity around barrel finishing, and the cask in question was the Port pipe. I used to be able to point to that and say “Bourbon and Port? That is my life in a bottle.”
So when the initial cask strength version was released, I adored it and was an early and vocal proponent calling for more of it. It has sense become an annual limited edition, and while that was probably planned all along, I enjoy reflecting on my encouragement.
The new Angel’s Envy distillery in Louisville went operational this week, pointing to a future several years down the road when their NAS Bourbon and Rye whiskeys become in-house products. So, this year’s release has that extra landmark associated with it.
Bottled at an over-potent 124.6 proof (62.3% ABV) from stock that is reportedly hovering around seven years old, the Port-finished Bourbon is naturally a very dark amber in color. The nose has some heat on it, but not as much as one might expect, and a capful of water dials it down nicely into the no-heat range. Once there, the scent is in clear Angel’s Envy territory, namely the place where Bourbon corn sweetness and vanilla meets black cherry jam and a certain dry pungency.
Yet I found that nose surprisingly flat and restrained, a quality that disappears with the first sip. The Bourbon shows the same character, but in a much bigger and more vibrant way. The finish rolls out a touch dry and spicy, leaving surprisingly moderate warmth for something so high octane.
Looking back on my notes for the initial 2012 version, the 2014 release, and the 2015 installment, I find what has happened is that I have become less impressed with this particular expression with each annual step it makes. I found myself thinking that this one in particular lacks some of the pizzazz that made previous releases stand out, and honestly, I would rather have the regular Angel’s Envy instead. It’s a good pour, but not at the price point (see below).
This year’s release has gone up in price from $159.99 to $179.99.