The whiskey industry has no shortage of contentious topics. Is Jack Daniel’s bourbon? Do age statements matter (and if so, how much)? Does non-chill filtration even matter? The list goes on. One of the bigger topics that draws divisiveness from whiskey enthusiasts is finished whiskey. For those who don’t know, a whiskey is finished when, in addition to its standard distillation and aging process, it goes through an extra aging and/or filtration process (sometimes multiple). This is one of the many ways distillers can experiment with whiskey in order make something different. How different? Well, that’s for us to find out.
This is where Angel’s Envy comes in. As far as I’m aware, they were among the first to subject bourbon to secondary maturation. In this case, 60-gallon ruby port wine casks from Portugal for three to six months. Angel’s Envy is also batched, with each bottle comprised of 8-12 barrels. This is their entry-level expression, bottled at 86.6 proof and selling for about $50. My review is based on a sample pour graciously provided to me by a fellow whiskey lover.
Nose: Mellow fruit, brown sugar, and vanilla frosting up front with a good layer of peanuts quickly working their way forward. This soon gives way to more of a corn-like note, indicating a bit of youth. Cherry, berry medley, and a trace amount of coconut-forward pina colada buried under the layer of nuts. A little smokiness and stone fruit after a few sips.
Palate: Light, sweet, and a bit dry. Silky, easygoing mouthfeel. Peanut butter with an assortment of dried fruits (apricot, golden raisins). Brown sugar, bitter fruit, oak, and creamed honey.
Finish: Surprisingly lengthy for an 86.6 proof (finished) bourbon. Brown sugar, oak, and red/dark fruit syrup residuals.
Story time: Tonight wasn’t the first time I tried Angel’s Envy. About a year ago, when El Camino released, me and a small group of friends got together to watch it. I was still fresh into my whiskey journey and I knew one of said friends was a whiskey fan, so I offered to bring a bottle over for him to try. He responded by bring four bottles over, one of which was Angel’s Envy. Of the five we indulged, it was my favorite, I couldn’t necessarily tell you why, but it seemed to be the most enjoyable in the simplest of ways.
Having revisited it, I can easily see why I enjoyed it that much. This finished whiskey brings a good number of pleasing notes to the table, a couple of which are slightly less common in my experience. The slightly high-rye mash bill and port cask influence clearly have a hand in this. And honestly? It’s a nice, simple, enjoyable pour. For a more casual whiskey drinker, there’s little challenge to overcome; for a whiskey enthusiast, there’s nuance to find and appreciate.
However, for the latter crowd, that nuance is a bit too nuanced. In my previous post for Wild Turkey Longbranch, I mentioned how some folks in the whiskey community decry expressions with lower proof/ABV. Although I do my best to avoid making blanket statements, I feel like Angel’s Envy could absolutely benefit from both a higher proof and more time in the barrel(s). The pieces are there for this whiskey to come together and create something truly fantastic, but it feels stifled. This whiskey doesn’t achieve a full-fledged flavor experience that many bourbon drinkers (self included) look for.
I have no reservations calling Angel’s Envy a solid product. What I do decline to call it is a sound value. If accessible bourbon is what you’re looking for, then even Basil Hayden has you covered for less money. What’s more is that many flagship whiskeys offer richer, more fulfilling, and arguably just as much accessibility for around $30 or less. Bulleit, Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, Evan Williams Single Barrel, Buffalo Trace, and others look like steals compared to Angel’s Envy. What it ultimately comes down to is what you value more: The quality and distinction of something accessible, or the value of something accessible. If it’s the former, Angel’s Envy might be right for you. If it’s the latter, look elsewhere.