There is an interesting phenomenon that occurs in the distilling industry which has always intrigued me. In each barrel of oak-aged spirits, a portion of the liquor is lost to evaporation as it rests. Over the course of many years, a significant amount of alcohol is removed from the spirit, leading to the more mellow final product we know and love as whiskey. Tradition states that this portion of alcohol is consumed by the angels who watch over the barrels as they age, and is thus known as the Angel's Share.
I have always enjoyed anecdotes such as this, that lend a bit of mythology to a perfectly natural process. And there is something almost romantic about the idea, that an angel is guarding my whiskey. Maybe it's the unnatural fondness I have for good booze, the way some people feel about their pets (or children). But maybe I just appreciate a bit of poetry in my real-life. And for certain people in this world, that poetry is worth stepping outside the lines for...
Lincoln Henderson is one of those people. A man who's spent his life in whiskey, much of it working for Brown-Forman, the liquor big-wigs that produce Jack Daniels, Early Times, and Woodford Reserve (among others), Lincoln is a natural yet unassuming ambassador for the stuff. His easy evangelism comes across as genuine and unrehearsed... bringing a quiet authority to the independent brand he has recently launched in fulfillment of a lifelong dream: Angel's Envy.
Yes, the name derives from the idea of the Angel's Share... the story being that Mr. Henderson had a little chat with the cherubim, reaching an agreement that they could take a larger portion if they left behind a better whiskey. However, they were so impressed by the after-product that they became envious and felt they had been tricked. Whatever the tale, the bourbon that remains is pretty heavenly... (see what I did there?)
Luckily for me, I didn't have to travel that far to sample the good stuff. Lincoln and his excellent whiskey showed up in downtown Baltimore recently, appearing at Alewife for a three-course dinner and bourbon tasting event. As always, Chef Wells' food was delicious, and the Angel's Envy flowed generously as the Master Distiller himself described his work, his background, and his passion for the fine brown liquor. Definitely an entertaining and thoroughly satisfying introduction to an exceptional beverage. I'm guessing a few of those angels were in attendance, just to keep the man honest...
But if the legend doesn't sway you, the science of the matter is that Angel's Envy is a well-balanced, easy-drinking bourbon, aged 4 years in virgin oak barrels, then 6 additional months in port wine casks. The port really softens the whiskey, which eases the expected "burn" from the liquor, and allows the hint of vanilla and maple flavors to shine through. And the finish... just a nice, light bourbony sweetness that gradually fades... is one of the smoothest in the business.
So what I'm saying is: Give this bourbon a try! Even if you don't find the tall-tale endearing, you may just find the taste wins you over. In the end, that's what makes a good drink. And that is exactly what Lincoln Henderson has done here... angels or not.
Enjoy! And drink well...