Breaking ground at the new distillery

Heaven Hill breaks ground on new $135 million distillery, to be called Heaven Hill Springs

Breaking ground at the new distillery
Gov. Andy Beshear, Heaven Hill President Max Shapira and Master Distiller Conor O’Driscoll break ground on the new Heaven Hill Springs Distillery in Bardstown. | Photo by Sara Havens

It was just the kind of weather you’d expect for a June morning if you found yourself, say, standing in the middle of an empty field in Bardstown with a couple dozen folks from the bourbon industry: warm but not sweltering, slightly humid, with a nice cooling breeze.

The occasion was to celebrate — and break ground on — a new $135 million distillery Heaven Hill plans to open in 2024, which is to be named Heaven Hill Springs Distillery to pay tribute to the company’s original distillery that burned down in 1996. The distillery will initially produce 150,000 barrels a year, but over time it can ramp up to more than 450,000 annually.

Heaven Hill also owns the Bernheim Distillery in Louisville — which it purchased in 1999 and is where all of its distillate is made now — and it will continue to produce bourbon and whiskey there as well. So technically, by 2026 let’s say, Heaven Hill could produce upwards of 900,000 barrels a year with both facilities. Now that’s some bourbon!

A rendering of the new distillery | Courtesy

During the ground-breaking ceremony, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear joined Heaven Hill President Max Shapira and Master Distiller Conor O’Driscoll to toast the new distillery and 38 full-time jobs it will bring to the greater Bardstown community.

“We’re honored to celebrate this homecoming with a return to distilling in Bardstown to augment our overall bourbon-making capacity, as well as continue to make an impact in the Bardstown community,” said Shapira. “I’m proud to salute our history and the many Bardstown men and women who helped build our brands over the years by naming our new facility in honor of the original Old Heaven Hill Springs Distillery that my father and uncles founded in this community nine decades ago.”

Gov. Beshear called renderings of the new facility “the Hogwarts of bourbon distilleries” and spoke not only of the booming bourbon industry in Kentucky but also of the many other industries that are bringing people to Kentucky daily — not only to visit but to live.

“This is a significant day for Heaven Hill and Kentucky,” Beshear said. “The return of distilling operations to Nelson County is a return to the company’s roots, and the investment highlights the continued growth of bourbon and spirits in the commonwealth.”

After a toast with the crowd of bourbon industry folks, local and regional politicians, media and many Heaven Hill employees both past and present, Beshear, Shapira and O’Driscoll planted their silver shovels into the ground and tossed up the dirt for all to see and celebrate.

A group toast
Let’s toast to expansion and bourbon at 11:30 a.m.! | Photo by Sara Havens

And speaking of dirt and earth and breaking ground, the new distillery will be built to create a more environmentally conscious distilled spirits industry. According to a news release, it will be engineered to minimize water use and reuse water streams, native plants and natural systems to manage stormwater runoff. It’ll also include a wastewater pre-treatment system to ensure discharged water exceeds environmental standards and reduces the load on the city’s treatment plant.

Heaven Hill Springs Distillery will sit right off KY 245, on Bloomfield Pike, not too far from Lux Row and Bardstown Bourbon Co. It’s also less than 3 miles from the Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience, which just debuted an expansion and renovation exactly a year ago.

newly expanded Angel's Envy Distillery

A sneak peek inside Angel’s Envy’s new $8.2 million expansion

newly expanded Angel's Envy Distillery
Welcome to the newly expanded Angel’s Envy Distillery. | Photo by Sara Havens

It’s crazy to think that a distillery that opened in 2016 already needs some elbow room, but when you’re making bourbon in Kentucky, it’s basically par for the course.

Angel’s Envy will soon open the doors to its latest $8.2 million expansion, which adds 13,000 square feet to the Main Street distillery and will allow more than 100,000 guests per year. The project has been underway since late 2020, and the folks over there have been tight-lipped about what we can expect from the new space — until now.

Every time I’ve stopped by Angel’s Envy during the last year or so, I noticed the construction was always behind closed doors, or more like behind huge black tarps. I tried sneaking a peek on several occasions, but they would threaten to take my bourbon away and I would quickly oblige.

Finally, last week, a small group of local media was invited to witness the incredible vision and foresight Angel’s Envy has to propel them to the next level of bourbon tourism in Kentucky.

Lincoln Tasting Room
One of the new tasting rooms is named after Lincoln Henderson, the co-founder of Angel’s Envy. | Photo by Sara Havens

When your distillery and all its components already fill out 90,000 square feet, 13,000 more feet isn’t a tremendous amount to add. But what they’ve managed to do with that new space completely changes the game.

We’re talking five more private tasting rooms, a full kitchen for caterers, several new event spaces, a new bar, doors that open by themselves when tours begin, a “Bottle Your Own” experience room, and an expanded gift shop for more merchandise. Yes, you really do need some Angel’s Envy socks. Trust me.

Dee Ford, the Brand Home General Manager at Angel’s Envy, told us that this expansion will allow them to accommodate 64,000 more people per year, which is about how many they’ve had to turn away the last couple of years due to space and tour limitations.

Many tourists come to Kentucky believing they can just walk up to a distillery and jump on a tour, but unfortunately, that just isn’t the case anymore. Ford said she hated sending people away who just wanted some kind of distillery experience but didn’t have a reservation, and now there’s room for tastings and special bottles and all the shopping a bourbon fanatic could want.

new bar
Look at this brand new bar! | Photo by Sara Havens

“We’re really proud of the expansion and the opportunities it will give us,” Ford said. “We can’t wait for the public to see what we’ve created for them.”

Angel’s Envy chose the same style of building for the expansion, so you really don’t notice a huge difference when looking at the old vs. the new from the outside, and inside, the connected buildings work as one seamless hub of activity. The five new private tasting rooms are pristine and intimate, allowing you to hear every word the guide says as he explains how to taste bourbon.

One cool new feature that I particularly liked was a new room/foyer where all tours now begin. This is where you meet your guide and he or she gives you the rundown of the rules. Then, as you are about to embark on your excursion, two large wooden doors swing open like magic, welcoming you inside the working distillery.

The newly expanded Angel’s Envy and all of its new facilities will open to the public on Tuesday, June 14, which is fittingly National Bourbon Day.

Big Bar neon wall

Big Bar gets four times bigger on Wednesday; new space celebrates 10 years

Big Bar neon wall
The new Big Bar oozes neon in an awesome way! | Photo by Sara Havens

For the past four years, Big Bar owner Kevin Bryan has had to endure nonstop questioning about some wide open spaces next door. When is it going to open? What are you planning? Will there be more bathrooms? A dance floor? When is it going to open? When is it going to open? When is it going to open?

But first, some background: The little Highlands bar with the Big name is all but 500 square feet, and Bryan knew that when he opened his gay bar in 2012, the first of its kind on Bardstown Road that now boasts two more. He was content with 500 square feet, and the bar quickly found a groove in Louisville’s nightlife scene.

It was small, sure. But Bryan added some patio furniture and an extra urinal, and it worked. It got crowded most nights, but it worked.

Then, at the very end of 2018, Big Bar’s next-door neighbor The Wine Market closed, leaving a massive 2,000-square-foot space that actually shared a wall with the bar. Of course Bryan and his investors swooped in and scooped up the real estate. Bryan says he immediately started envisioning a grand extension of Big Bar, which would actually incorporate two floors.

Big Bar sign
People will finally stop asking: “When will it be done?” | Photo by Sara Havens

But projects, as we know, take time. And if a contractor says one year, you better plan for two. Throw a global pandemic into the mix and supply chain issues that ensued, and you have a valid explanation of why it has taken this long. Plus, Bryan wants to do things right. And he wants his community — everyone from neighbors and friends to his LGBTQ cohorts and regulars — to enjoy a space that is inclusive, fun, vibrant and even glows in the dark.

“Having more space means I can do so much more — more events, more mixers, more drag shows, more drinks and, yes, even more bathrooms,” Bryan says.

I stopped by the bigger bar the week before it was slated to open — Wednesday, May 4 — and Bryan showed off some cool new features. The massive two-level structure just oozes with neon, funk and sophistication. In fact, if you order a certain drink, it’ll come with a pair of 3-D glasses that you can use in one of the two new unisex bathrooms. The wallpaper literally comes to life.

There’s a large dance floor with a DJ booth perched up on the second floor. And lining the walls are pub tables and chairs where you can hang while you muster the courage to cut a rug. There’s also a new bar on the ground floor as well, along with the two bathrooms. And on the second floor, which overlooks the dance area, there’s a swanky lounge where you can chill with bigger groups, and even a small little four-top table hidden away in a private nook.

Bryan seemed excited but stressed with last-minute details that needed tending to.

“It’s been 10 years in the making, so I want it to be 100% from when the doors open,” he says.

Big Bar owner Kevin Bryan
Big Bar owner Kevin Bryan

One of the new features at the bar is the state-of-the-art Highball Machine that pumps out the fizziest soda water you’ve ever tasted. Plus, as Bryan said, there will be more of everything, including a bigger premium bourbon selection, new cocktails, more beer taps, more TVs, and even a handful of zero-proof cocktails.

Big Bar first opened its doors on May 1, 2012, and now, 10 years later just about to the exact day, it’s both growing and showing to the delight of its numerous regulars, including myself. Words can’t really do the space any justice, so be sure to stop in sometime to check it out after Wednesday.

And speaking of 10 years, Bryan says the bar’s official 10 Year Anniversary Celebration will be held the week of May 18-22, so get ready to throw down and dance the night away.

Big Bar is located at 1202 Bardstown Road, and it opens at 4 p.m. most days, 2 p.m. on Sundays.

Check out more before and after photos below:

Big beers

What’s with these huge ass beers at Louisville concerts?

Big beers
24 ounces of ridiculous! I made this poor soul pose for a picture, but he was happy to show off the beer as big as your head.

When I was, say, 22, I would have been thrilled to order a 24-ounce beer while watching Limp Bizkit do it all for the nookie. And in fact, I probably would have ordered a couple throughout the show. But for the love of Chris Kirkpatrick, what the hell is going on at Louisville concert and sporting venues with offering ONLY 24-ounce canned beers???

This is bullshit, and I need to know why I’m forced to purchase a beer as big as my head if I’m in the mood for a little bubbly? Is it all about the cost? The economics of: “Let’s make them bigger so people spend more”?

Big Mich Ultra
More beer = more calories!

I guarantee you people will spend more buying normal sized 12-ounce beers — making more trips to the bar and possibly purchasing some overly priced stale popcorn — than one dumptruck dickload of White Claw.

These 24-ounce Sasquatches of suds have invaded the Louisville Palace, Lynn Family Stadium, Iroquois Amphitheater and so many more of our live music and sports venues.

Not only does the beer get warm halfway through, but I’m forced to haul my ass to the bathroom at least five times during the event. If I wanted to drink that much beer, I would have crashed a frat party and reignited my college namesake of Keg Stand Queen.

(For the record, yes, you can still purchase normal-sized pours of wine and spirits, so I decided to sip on some Maker’s Mark during last night’s Chelsea Handler show at the Palace.)

I need answers. Who is responsible for this careless and ridiculous decision? Is it the folks running the venues? The distributors? Are there supply chain issues with 12-ounce cans — but a surplus of 24-ounce ones? Is it really in the best interest of the venue to have the audience guzzling down vats of beer and seltzer?

Huge Miller Lite can
Here’s the next size, coming soon to a stadium near you!

Someone explain this to me. And also let me know if it’s happening at venues all around the country. I thought the super-sized American gluttonous culture was coming to an end, but apparently not.

Wait, does this make me old?

Bardstown Bourbon Co. Founders Collaboration

Alcohol Professor: 7 of the Best Whiskey Releases of Spring 2022

Here’s my most recent piece for Alcohol Professor on some of the newest bourbon and whiskey releases this spring.


Spring has certainly sprung in the whiskey world, with new releases pushing up through the soil quicker than I can remove winter’s gook. There once was one big release period in the fall, but it seems nobody’s holding back their bourbon-soaked bounty for that anymore. So let’s take a look at some of the latest crop looking for a little sunshine and sippin’.

Angel’s Envy Rye Whiskey Finished In Ice Cider Casks

Angel's Envy Cider bottle

107 Proof | $249.99

In 2013, Angel’s Envy came out with rye whiskey finished in Caribbean rum casks that was — and still is — phenomenal. There truly is nothing at all like it in the marketplace today, so it’s no surprise they didn’t mess with it for nine years. Until now. As part of the Cellar Collection, this release finishes the Angel’s Envy rye (sans the Caribbean rum) in ice cider casks from Vermont-based Eden Specialty Ciders for 364 days.

The rye whiskey is 7 years old, so it’s solid even without the cider finish. You definitely get that hint of apple on the nose, and then once you sink your teeth in — er, I mean sip — it’s like Grandma’s apple pie. Straight up baked apple with drizzles of caramel, sprinkles of cinnamon and even some roasted cashews thrown into the mix. The price tag is a bit steep on this one, but if you’re a rye and cider fan, this is your golden goose.   

Uncle Nearest

Uncle Nearest bottle
Unc

118.4 proof | $149

Uncle Nearest Tennessee Whiskey first came onto the scene in 2017, and as founders Fawn Weaver and company conceptualized the welcoming distillery in Shelbyville, Tenn., they were smart to lay down some of their own distillate before ground was ever broken.

Now, that whiskey is about 5 years old, and the company will be switching over to that juice, which is 100-percent distilled, aged and bottled by Uncle Nearest. They’ll also be adding to their lineup of offerings, including some rye whiskeys, but first they celebrated the milestone with the release of the Uncle Nearest Master Blend Edition, which is only available at the distillery.

There’s a reason Uncle Nearest is the most awarded American whiskey company for the last few years, and once you pop the top on this bottle, you’ll know why. The whiskey titillates with butter pecan, dark fruit and toffee notes — and that’s just in the aroma. The flavors are very impressive for a 5-year-old whiskey, and the notes I just mentioned are all heightened in that first sip, along with hints of butterscotch and caramel corn. The whiskey is thick and leaves you thirsty for more.

Bardstown Bourbon Co. Collaborative Series: KBS Stout

Bardstown Bourbon Co. Founders Collaboration

110 proof | $159.99

The latest in Bardstown Bourbon Company’s Collaborative Series has them teaming up with the beloved Michigan beer company Founders Brewing. The finished whiskey began as a 10-year-old Tennessee bourbon and then was put into Founders Brewing KBS Stout Barrels for 15 months. As with most of these collaborations, the results are phenomenal. 

This is one that reveals new flavors with each sip. On the nose you get wonderful notes of coffee, cocoa and orange peel, most likely from the stout finish. And then that first sip explodes with black cherry, dark chocolate and even more coffee. It may sound complex, but the bourbon and the stout have intermingled well, making it a fun experiment and treat for both beer and bourbon lovers. I’m thinking about adding this to my coffee to see if those mocha notes come out even more.

15 Stars Timeless Reserve

15 Stars bottle

103 proof | $279

This is the newest bourbon to hit store shelves (in Kentucky only, sorry folks), and yet it’s the oldest one at 14 years old. 15 Stars is a new brand named in honor of America’s 15th state — you guessed it, Kentucky!

The father and son team of Rick and Ricky Johnson sourced barrels for this blend, called Timeless Reserve, and they recently revealed the website, which also highlights many historical artifacts from 1795. Although Kentucky was founded in 1792, it took three more years for a 15-star flag to debut.

The Johnsons will continue to put out sourced blends as well as some of their own bourbons and whiskeys they’ve distilled with the help of Bardstown Bourbon Co. using various types of heirloom corn.

At a perfect and deliberate 103 proof, this Kentucky bourbon truly is timeless, reminding you just how delicate and nuanced whiskey can be as it ages on past a decade. You get a little of that oak on the nose, along with a nice maple and butterscotch. And after that first sip, it’s a spring bouquet of fresh flavors bursting in your mouth. It’s got that viscous mouthfeel from its time in the oak, plus a few dark chocolate and roasted almond notes, along with hints of sweet vanilla and warm caramel. It’s a high price point, but it’s 14 years old!

FOR THE FULL ARTICLE, CLICK HERE.

Heaven Hill Heritage Collection bottle

Heaven Hill releases 17-year bourbon from its ‘vast inventory of extra-aged whiskey’ — so how’s it taste?

Heaven Hill Heritage Collection bottle

Earlier this month, word spread about a new bourbon Heaven Hill was launching that would be a whopping 17 years old. Yes, there are older bourbons on the market — Pappy 23 to reference a popular one — but in this age where many distilleries cite limited supplies of aged whiskey, it makes headlines when out pops any release older than 12.

But then again, Heaven Hill isn’t your average everyday bourbon distillery either. After announcing the release of the new Heritage Collection 17-Year-Old Barrel-Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, they followed it up a week or so later with news that the next Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond release would be 17 years as well. Hot damn!

Call it gumption, call it ingenious foresight or call it great supply management, but Heaven Hill is sitting on a “vast inventory of extra-aged whiskey,” according to Susan Wahl, VP of American Whiskeys. Wahl spoke during a media event on the Heritage Collection via Zoom, which included a tasting of the 17-year bourbon led by Master Distiller Conor O’Driscoll.

There are currently 1.9 million barrels aging throughout Heaven Hill’s six rick house sites, so yes, I can see where some of that probably is older whiskey, which is good news for them and consumers.

The new release is the first of the Heritage Collection, which will debut each spring and always feature some of the distillery’s oldest juice (15+). Their highly sought-after Parker’s Heritage Collection will continue to be released each fall and focuses more on the experimental side of the coin, including finishes, mashbills and more.

Tell me about the bourbon already!

OK, OK. This first iteration of the Heritage Collection features Heaven Hill’s standard bourbon mashbill of 78% corn, 10% rye and 12% malted barley. The proof on this one is a stout 118.2, so it does pack a punch for an older guy.

Heaven Hill Heritage Collection bottle
Fancy bottle, fancy box. | Courtesy

And, as we know, the age statement comes from the youngest bourbon in the batch — which is 17 years old — but O’Driscoll told us it also contains a good amount of 19- and 20-year-old barrels, which brings its average age to 18.7.

The barrels were also pulled from several rick houses, including Deatsville, Glencoe, Schenley and the main campus in Bardstown, and most barrels were from floors 1-4.

The suggested retail price on this fancy 750ml bottle is $274.99, and Wahl said it should be hitting store shelves any day now in Kentucky as well as across the country.

So how’s it taste?

It tastes delicious, thank you. I’ll have another.

Only kidding — about having another … unless I can get lucky and find one on the shelf.

From first sniff, you know this bourbon is going to be complex. It smells like walking into a rick house and all those wonderful notes that invade your nostrils — vanilla, caramel, toffee, oak, baked apple and dark chocolate.

Now onto the sip …

This bourbon is not overly oaked at all, which can be the case with older whiskeys. It’s also quite sweet for being 118.2 proof. Along with the aromas I mentioned above, I get some nutty flavors, like pecans and almonds, a lot more of that apple, this time with a sprinkle of cinnamon, and even a tinge of leather on the long finish.

If your tongue was a dance floor, it’s waltzing from left to right, gliding effortlessly like the mature spirit it is. After sitting inside a barrel for 17 years, this is the bourbon’s time to grab the spotlight and never let go — until the last drop has been savored.

Woodford Reserve Derby bottle 2022

The Woodford Derby 2022 bottle is revealed!

Woodford Reserve Derby bottle 2022
And we’re off! For Derby 2022. | Courtesy

March is finally here, which means Louisvillians can brace themselves for warmer weather, two chances to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, and a looming countdown to the Kentucky Derby, even though we’re still 68 days away. The first news out of the gate: Woodford Reserve has revealed its special Derby 2022 bottle.

This year’s fancy bottle features the artwork of Kentucky native Jaime Corum, an equine artist known for her horse portraits. The painting on the bottle, titled “Dreams in Bloom,” features three thoroughbreds racing neck-and-neck, surrounded by a vivid spring flowers, including the iconic red roses of Derby.

Woodford Reserve Derby bottle 2022

“The attention to detail in Jaime’s artwork is remarkable — and so realistic,” said Woodford Master Distiller Chris Morris in a news release. “This year’s bottle celebrating the 148th Kentucky Derby will make a gorgeous addition to anyone’s bar.”

So how do you get the bottle for your bar and/or impending Derby party? Well, you can pre-order your bottle now at ReserveBar if you don’t live in Kentucky, but if you do, it should be available wherever you buy booze later this month.

Unlike most other limited-edition bottles, these tend to hang around a while, so no need to rush out or stand in line. The 1-liter bottle is priced at $49.99.

Woodford has released special Derby bottles since 1999. I think the oldest one in my personal collection is 2007, but I’m not really trying to collect them due to increasingly limited shelf space. Occupational hazard, I suppose.

Diamond Pub in St. Matthews will soon be The Fox Den

The Fox Den logo
The Fox Den is scheduled to open in April.

I heard it through the grapevine that Diamond Pub & Billiards St. Matthews will soon be converted to The Fox Den by Louisville restauranteur Jared Fox Matthews. The target opening date is April 22, 2022.

News of Diamond Pub’s closure came earlier this morning on Facebook:

“After 15 years Diamond Pub and Billiards has decided to close our doors. We have loved serving you over the years, celebrating the good and the bad that life has to offer. One of our long time managers has decided to take over the space and to give the building a fresh, new look. Thanks for all the support over the years and we wish him the best of luck!”

Diamond Pub St. Matthews, Facebook

Matthews worked at Diamond for more than 15 years as bar manager and talent booker, and he now owns other Louisville establishments like Equus & Jacks, Black Rabbit and Lou Lou Food & Drink. He plans to give the space a much needed makeover but still keep the sports bar vibe.

So what does that mean? Well, the 11 pool tables are staying, and now there will be more darts, pinball, TVs and live music seven nights a week. There also will be chef-driven pub fare, an extensive beer menu and craft cocktails.

Matthews has been involved in the music scene, hence the emphasis on live music every night.

“Stepping away from the music scene was one of the hardest decisions, but now I get to combine my love for the music industry with my love for the service industry,” he says in a news release. “Having the opportunity to step back feet first in the same building to elevate a bar I helped brand and build 15 years ago is a dream come true.”

I asked if there would be any changes to Diamond Pub in the Highlands — aka “the old Jillian’s” — but as of press time, I haven’t heard back. Matthews did not purchase that location. I’ll keep you updated.

Green River Bottle

The revival of Green River Bourbon

Green River Distilling
Green River Distilling is in Owensboro, Ky. | Courtesy

I’m going to admit something that I’m extremely embarrassed about. I have never visited Owensboro, Ky., and I’ve lived in the bluegrass state going on 23 years. I have no excuse, but now, I have a really good reason to head west. Green River Distilling Co. in the ‘Boro has revived a long-lost bourbon brand called Green River Bourbon.

Before Prohibition, Owensboro was actually bustling with bourbon production, and there were more than 20 distilleries in the city. In fact, the Green River Distilling Co. is the 10th oldest distillery in the state.

And while it changed names and owners several times throughout the past century — O.Z. Tyler, Old Medley, etc. — the current owners of the distillery quickly restored its original name once they learned of the site’s rich past.

The original Green River Distilling was founded in 1885 by John W. McCulloch. According to a news release, he was a traveling man who loved to tout his bourbon wherever his path took him.

Green River Bourbon was known as one of the finest Kentucky bourbons in the world, and it even won several international awards, including a gold medal and “best of show” at the Paris Exposition in 1900, and later a grand prize at the 1905 Liege Exposition in Belgium.

Green River Bottle
Check out the cool bottle design on Green River Bourbon. | Courtesy

Green River also was known as “The Whiskey Without Regrets.”

Unfortunately the distillery eventually shut down during Prohibition, and some of the original structures were lost to a fire. The distillery sat dormant for years until 2016, and now it’s once again producing bourbon by the barrel — about 94,000 of them in 2021.

“I’m proud of our team’s great work bringing Green River back to life in Owensboro after years of dormancy — not only because of what it means to our company, but what it means for this wonderful city,” said Simon Burch, CEO of Green River Distilling, in a news release. “In its heyday, Green River’s success was intrinsically linked to Owensboro’s proud whiskey making heritage. The revival of the brand will make this true once again, and we plan to sell it far and wide, just like the original Green River.”

I met with Green River Master Distiller Jacob Call and CEO Simon Burch on Tuesday at Neat Bourbon Bar as they chatted with some local media here in Louisville. They were excited to showcase the revived Green River Bourbon, and I could tell they genuinely were thrilled to be bringing back a piece of bourbon history.

The bourbon is about 5 years old and is bottled at 90 proof. And the actual bottle is super cool, rounded to match the horseshoe on the bottom. Apparently the design took cues from the brand’s past, including key icons like horseshoes, rivets and the original Green River colors.

Best of all, the bourbon is refreshingly affordable at a suggested price of $34.99! Call said he wants his bourbon to be consumed, not collecting dust on shelves. I shared a taste of the bourbon with Call and Burch, and I will definitely be adding it to my bar as a daily drinker.

With a mash bill of 70% corn, 21% rye and 9% malted barley, the bourbon has a nice spice from the rye and packs some rich flavors of caramel, nutmeg and apricot for being 5 years old.

They’re having the official Green River Launch Party tonight at the distillery, and you should start to see this on shelves around Kentucky very soon. Or you can join me in making a pilgrimage to the distillery to check it out in person!

Angel's Envy Rye

Angel’s Envy adds to its Cellar Collection: rye whiskey finished in ice cider casks

Angel's Envy Rye
Introducing Angel’s Envy Rye Whiskey Finished in Ice Cider Casks | Courtesy

In 2013, Angel’s Envy came out with a rye whiskey finished in Caribbean rum casks that was — and still is — phenomenal. There truly is nothing at all like it in the marketplace today, so it’s no wonder the Hendersons didn’t mess with the rye for nine years.

Until now.

Of course they know better than to tweak a product beloved by many, so instead, they’ve taken their rye whiskey surplus and experimented with a new finished product that will be the next bottle in the highly coveted Angel’s Envy Cellar Collection. For the fourth iteration of this collection, behold the Angel’s Envy Rye Whiskey Finished in Ice Cider Casks.

The late Lincoln Henderson, who founded Angel’s Envy with his son Wes Henderson, was passionate about innovation, so to honor him, they started the Cellar Collection to produce one-time releases that showcase both experimentation and unique flavor profiles. Wes recently announced his retirement from Angel’s Envy, so now his sons Kyle, Andrew and Connor run the operations at the Louisville distillery.

This newest concept features 7-year-old, 95% rye whiskey that has been aged for 364 days in ice cider casks from the Vermont-based Eden Specialty Ciders. Ice cider is a dessert-style cider that is produced primarily in the northern United States and Canada.

“The flavor profile of this whiskey is very unique — the spiciness of the rye is balanced by the fruity sweetness from the ice cider casks, and there’s a crispness that is really distinct,” said Kyle Henderson, distillery production manager, in a news release. “We’ve never seen a whiskey finished in ice cider casks before, so we’re excited to introduce this finish as part of our Cellar Collection.”

Kyle explained that it was Andrew who first suggested the ice cider finish, and after they took a deep dive into the world of cider-making, “we fell in love with the product and the process and knew these special casks would be an excellent match for our rye,” he said.

The whiskey is bottled at 107 proof and will be sold for a suggested price of $249.99. There will be 6,000 bottles as part of this limited-edition release, and it’ll officially hit store shelves around Feb. 25 in Kentucky, New York, California, Florida, Tennessee, Illinois and Texas. If you’re a 500 Main member, keep an eye out for an email on Feb. 15 where you can enter to win a chance to purchase a bottle.

So how does it taste?

I was fortunate to receive an extravagant media package this week that included a sample of the finished whiskey, plus all the ingredients and tools to make cheese fondue, complete with Vermont apples, Kenny’s cheese, a cutting board, Blue Dog Bakery bread and much more. I plan on trying my hand at fondue tonight, but for now I’ll just focus on the whiskey, since that is what we’re here for.

The release date is Feb. 25.

(If you’re curious to see how the fondue unfolds, I’ll post something to my Instagram later.)

Color: Since this rye whiskey is seven years old, it’s got a decent amount of amber hue to it, but in comparison to some of the other Cellar Collection releases, like the Sherry or Tawny finish, it’s much lighter since the finishing spirit is light in color. You’re probably like, “No duh,” but whatever.

Aroma: You definitely get that apple right up front, and if I close my eyes and inhale, I feel like there’s a late-season Northern Spy apple under my nose that I’m about to sink my teeth into. OK, so I don’t know my apples that well — I pulled “late-season Northern Spy” from the news release — but you get the point. On top of the apple, I get light caramel and roasted cashew notes.

Taste: If you took an apple, cut it into pieces and sprinkled black pepper, brown sugar and cinnamon over it, as well as a light drizzle of hot caramel, that is exactly what I taste here. The rye doesn’t soften at all. You get a little of that ice cider sweetness on the tip of the tongue, and then the fury of the rye quickly warms things up as it moves to the back. The finish is quite pleasant as the spice shapeshifts back into sweet.

Thoughts: This is definitely a great experiment with rye whiskey and ice cider, and it certainly is a one-of-a-kind product. Would I swap it out permanently for the regular Angel’s Envy Rye? No. But nobody’s asking me to. Am I going to shell out $250 for a bottle? I suppose I should do my taxes first and then make that decision later. (Ahh, the benefits of freelancing.)

Bravo, Angel’s Envy, for always pushing the envelope of innovation. This is a great pairing, and I look forward to whatever else is up your sleeve.