Angel's Envy Cask Strength bottle

Bourbon sips & scoops: Maker’s, Parker’s, Angel’s, Michter’s and more!

Things are starting to pile up on the Bar Belle desk, and my boss is nowhere to be found! I should have written this sooner and I apologize, dear thirst nuggets.

But alas, here I am with a mound of announcements and a handful of samples. What’s a bourbon journalist to do? Let’s take ’em one at a time.

Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup bottle

Maker's Mark Breeders' Cup bottle

You might see these pop up at your local liquor store this weekend! It’s the Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup commemorative bottle, which also helps raise funds for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.

As you know, the Breeders’ Cup will return to Keeneland Race Course Nov. 6-7, so this limited-edition bottle celebrates the partnership between the two entities — as well as Maker’s Mark, which is the official bourbon of the race.

I kinda like the white bottle with the purple wax — it would definitely make a nice show piece on your bar or nightstand. Hey, no judgement here.

Buffalo Trace expands soda line with ginger ale and ginger beer

Freddie's Ginger Ale

If you’ve visited Buffalo Trace Distillery within the last year, you probably noticed Freddie’s Root Beer for sale in the gift shop.

Freddie Johnson is a longtime tour guide — and all around great bourbon ambassador — at Buffalo Trace, so the line is named in his honor.

Word is, they’re expanding the line with ginger ale and ginger beer. These will make perfect mixers for that bourbon you pick up there, or consumed on their own, of course.

The new products should be at the distillery by mid November and will sell for $1.25 a bottle.

New Releases:

Angel’s Envy Cask Strength 2020

Angel's Envy Cask Strength

Despite the craptacular year we’ve had, good things do happen. Case in point, the release of the annual Angel’s Envy Cask Strength.

This biting baby doll will be 120.4 proof and released on Nov. 1 — just in time for the election. (Maybe we’ll be celebrating, or maybe we’ll be drowning our sorrows — who knows.)

There are only 17,400 bottles divided up between all 50 states (for the first time ever), so dust off that hunting gear and get prepared for next week.

I was fortunate to try a sample of this year’s release and can say that it does not sip like 120 juice — it’s quite smooth, and it’s teeth are not as sharp as you’d imagine them to be. There’s a lot of vanilla, caramel and brown sugar up front, but there’s also a nice ripe cherry note in there, as well.

And the finish … ah, the finish: It’s like licking the spoon after Mom made some sugar cookies. I could sip on this all night long.

Angel’s Envy Cask Strength will retail for $199.99.

Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finish Rye

Michter's Toasted Rye

These delectable dudes were released in September, so I’m sorry I’m just now getting to them. You may be able to find a pour of them at your favorite bourbon bar, and I suggest you give them a sip!

The Toasted Rye consists of fully matured Michter’s Single Barrel Rye (at barrel strength) that is then put into a second custom toasted barrel and aged a bit longer.

The result is gorgeous notes of caramel and spice and everything nice. I was also fortunate to receive a sample and will tell you without hesitation that this juice is richer than a cheesecake the Golden Girls are huddled over at midnight.

I love the viscosity in this one, as well. It’s thick and coats my mouth like a North Face. Think of the consistency of a cherry juice — if you buy the right ones, especially Luxardo — and you get the idea.

This limited release is bottled around 109.2 proof and goes for about $85 if you can find it in a store.

Parker’s Heritage 2020: Heavy Char Bourbon

Parker's Heritage 2020

This is the 14th edition of this annual, highly anticipated release, and it’s a 10-year-old bourbon that was aged in a heavily charred (level 5) barrels.

The brand is named after the late Heaven Hill Master Distiller Parker Beam, and it raises funds for ALS, the disease Beam passed away from in 2010.

This one is bottled at 120 proof and retails for about $120. And like these other releases, it’ll be hard to find.

I was fortunate to try a sample of this, too, and would describe it as a maple bomb. It’s got a touch of spice and sips easy — I can imagine sipping it next to a fireplace as it gently snows outside.

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof C920

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof

This is the third barrel-proof release from Elijah Craig this year, and it’s the second highest proof — at 132.8 proof.

This seems to be a theme here, but despite the high proof, it sips quite smoothly. It’s got deep flavors of toasted marshmallow, caramel, and I’m even getting some milk chocolate in the sample I got.

This is uncut, 12-year-old bourbon bottled straight from the barrel, as God intended. If you haven’t explored the Elijah Craig portfolio, I’d recommend getting acquainted with it. It’s delicious and pretty darn affordable.

This one retails for around $65.99.

Larceny Barrel Proof C920

Larceny Barrel Proof

This wheated barrel-proof bourbon is also a product of Heaven Hill, like the Elijah Craig above.

Bottled at 122.4 proof, this bourbon is consists of bourbon aged 6 to 8 years and is non-chill filtered.

To me, this is definitely getting better each time I try a new Larceny release.

Since it’s a wheat-based bourbon, it’s a little sweater on the palate and less spicy, but you get those wonderful full-time flavors — think s’mores, campfire and soft baking spices from the kitchen.

This one retails for around $67.99, and I would recommend the barrel proof over the standard Larceny.

Angel's Envy Japanese bottle

Angel’s Envy goes big for its 10th anniversary with a new release, and it sells out in minutes (sort of)

That angst you felt in the air this morning was from hundreds of local bourbon collectors huddled over their keyboards trying to score a bottle of the new Angel’s Envy release, aptly called Angel’s Envy Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Finished in Japanese Mizunara Oak Casks. 

Yes, it’s quite a mouthful for the whiskey that celebrates the 10th anniversary of company’s Founder’s Day (Aug. 19), when the very first port barrel was filled with Angel’s Envy bourbon. And it’s quite a bottle, crafted from premium, lead-free crystal, and is meant to be used as a decanter once you’ve imbibed all the precious juice within.

The extremely limited release (only 1,200 bottles) will set you back $349.99 — if you were able to nab it from the AE website this morning (which had some technical difficulties). While that initial launch was to the brand’s 500 Main club members, they’re holding back more bottles for the official release at the distillery on Sept. 1.

So what makes this so special?

Angel's Envy Japanese Mizunara release

The bottle in its full glory!

Well, despite such a limited number of bottles available, the whiskey is a blend of four-year-old and nine-year-old Angel’s Envy that is finished in hand-selected, charred, new Japanese Mizunara oak casks for an additional two years.

These Japanese casks are actually made from rare, 200-year-old wood that was very porous — soaking the bourbon right up into the charred wood.

“Ten years ago today, my dad Lincoln and I filled our first port barrels with the bourbon that would eventually become Angel’s Envy. In celebration, we wanted to release something special to honor my dad’s incredible legacy, how far Angel’s Envy has come and our exciting future ahead,” said Wes Henderson, Angel’s Envy co-founder and chief innovation officer, in a news release.  

As you may or may not know, the Japanese create some great whiskey of their own and also are rabid consumers of Kentucky bourbon.

“We chose this release for the 10th anniversary because my dad, having taken on several consulting roles in Japan during his career, always had a deep appreciation for the country and its distilling community,” added Henderson.

The 750ml bottle is a warm 97.8 proof.

I was fortunate to try a sample provided to the media and can say it’s definitely a fitting tribute to 10 years of the company. From first whiff, I got intense notes of banana bread, burnt marshmallow and cherry pie. And from a few sips (OK, more than a few), I detected warm vanilla, dark chocolate and definitely some smoky oaky flavors, most likely from the Japanese casks. It also finished smooth like an unpeated scotch.

Is it worth $350? Well, I don’t think I’d pay that much for any bourbon. But if you can spare it, the whiskey is wonderful, the bottle is beautiful, and the milestone is memorable.

Check out the Angel’s Envy website for details on the Sept. 1 release. Not sure if it’ll be one of those first-come, first-serve long line deals, or if they’ll do something different due to COVID restrictions.

Woodford Reserve

New releases: Batch Proof, Barrel Proof and bourbon-battered beer

Just when you thought it was safe to enjoy your bourbon collection as it now stands, along come more damn releases — but that’s a good thing! Right?

Batch Proof

Woodford Reserve

Courtesy of Woodford Reserve

First up, Woodford Reserve is releasing another limited-edition Batch Proof, which is up slightly in proof from last year’s first-ever Batch Proof release (123.6 vs. 123.3). Hey, we’ll take what we can get, right! I thought last year’s was incredible, so I’m excited to try this one on for size.

“Most people do not get to experience Woodford Reserve at such a high-proof presentation, so we are honored to share this special bourbon with the public,” said Master Distiller Chris Morris in a news release. “The intensity and depth of flavor found in Woodford Reserve Batch proof is truly remarkable.”

Thanks, Chris. Now I really need to try it!

According to the release, some flavor notes include rich raisin, brown sugar, “spicy leather character” (huh?) and cedar wood. Sounds like Grandma’s old closet to me.

Regardless, this is going to be great stuff. It’ll retail for $129.99.

Barrel Proof

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof

Photo by Sara Havens

Next up, it’s the 2020 release of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof (A120), at a whopping 136.6 proof! Each year, the Barrel Proof starts trickling out to thirsty bourbon fanatics, and it has garnered top accolades throughout the years, including Whisky of the Year.

This is bourbon in its purest form, you all! The only thing they do to it after dumping from the barrel is filter out the flecks of char.

It’s uncut, 12-year-old bourbon that packs a punch as well as a fascinating flavor that you just can’t put down. It’s hot, it’s sweet, it’s sticky. It’s what you’d taste if you found yourself in a rick house with a long-ass straw.

This usually retails for around $60-$70.

Bourbon-aged beer

And finally, Angel’s Envy is preparing to launch a barrel-aged beer program called “Angel’s & Ale,” and its first partner in crime is Against the Grain.

Angle's & Ales

Courtesy of Angel’s Envy

Apparently, AtG created a Belgian Quadruple Ale that was aged for three to four months in port barrels formerly used to finish Angel’s Envy core product.

While the beer will be available for the entire month of March at AtG, they’re having a kickoff party on Feb. 28 at the Angel’s Envy Distillery, just right across the street from AtG. And more good news: They’ll be announcing additional “Angel’s & Ale” collaborations throughout 2020.

Can’t wait to try this brew out, as I’m curious how much flavor resonates from a used port barrel that has aged bourbon for a few months.

Cheers!

Whitesnake Angel's Envy

New releases: The Angel’s Envy Tawny Port Finish is old and sexy, plus say hi to Elijah Craig rye

Whitesnake Angel's Envy

A tale of two Tawnys.

Here I go again on my own. Goin’ down the only road I’ve ever known. Like a drifter I was born to walk alone. And I’ve made up my mind. I ain’t wastin’ no more time …

Those, my millennial friends, are lyrics to a kick-ass ’80s song by hairband Whitesnake, and in the video, which they actually played on MTV back in the day, there was pin-up goddess Tawny Kitaen, rolling around half-naked on the hood of a muscle car.

It’s a beautiful piece of pop culture art stamped in time.

And my brain, which is forever stamped in all things ’80s and ’90s, immediately drew parallels to the video when I first heard about the new Cellar Collection from Angel’s Envy, which is finished in tawny port casks. Sure, Tawny is an unusual name, so you can understand why I automatically pictured an Angel’s Envy bottle frolicking on top of a car.

But when I took that first sip, there were way more similarities between the two beauties than just the name. They’re delicious. They’re rich. Their deep, auburn color teases, taunts and tantalizes with every sip. And on the other end of the spectrum, they’re both old — as am I.

Let me get my mind off that car and just focus on the bourbon for a minute. I was fortunate to stop by the Angel’s Envy Distillery last week for a top-secret media get-together announcing the new release. Of course they made us keep it a secret until now, so I apologize that I couldn’t spread the good news earlier.

Let me give you the quick details: The release is the second in the Cellar Collection (the first was the Oloroso Sherry Cask finish) and features 10-year-old bourbon that was finished for 10 months in tawny port casks. It is bottled at 111.6 proof and will retail for about $249.99. The limited run of just 5,400 bottles will be available beginning Feb. 8 at select retailers in Kentucky, California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Tennessee, as well as at the distillery in downtown Louisville

Angel's Envy Tawny(If you’re a member of the free-to-join 500 Main club, you’ll be getting an email soon about being able to purchase it in advance.)

Anyway, during the short tasting experience, we heard from Angel’s Envy Co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer Wes Henderson, Production Manager Kyle Henderson and Lead Distillery Operator Andrew Henderson about the limited release.

Wes Henderson opened the discussion by explaining the concept of the Cellar Collection. Basically, there’s no set date or expectation of when something new has to be released. It comes down to quality — and the wow factor.

“I don’t believe in innovating just to innovate,” Wes said. “We didn’t release this just to have something out there. It’s very different than anything we’ve released before. We set out to make the best whiskey we can, and this one, I believe, is very much in line with what my father (bourbon legend Lincoln Henderson) preferred — more subtle, not in-your-face.”

Kyle Henderson — Wes’ son, Lincoln’s grandson — added that currently, there are about 17 more experiments going on at the Bacardi-owned distillery.

“Those include all the dumbass ideas that won’t see the light of day,” he joked.

Now, as you know, regular Angel’s Envy is finished in ruby port barrels between three to six months. So how is tawny port different? For one, tawny port, which is made from red grapes, is aged longer in oak casks — giving it a golden-brown color. Port, in general, is a type of sweet wine made in Portugal.

So how does the Angel’s Envy Kentucky Straight Bourbon Finished in Tawny Port Barrels taste?

It’s peppery, it’s nutty, it’s fruity. It’s like throwing a handful of Werther’s Originals into a blender with about two Red Hots. It’s everything you want a finished bourbon to be, yet its flavors are unfamiliar but intriguing. It’s like doing a cartwheel on the hood of a car and having knees that’ll stick the landing. (I miss those knees.)

I know what you’re thinking, and no, it’s not that I’m not obsessed with Tawny Kitaen. It’s the price tag — a whopping $250! I get it — it’s a lot.

Maybe you don’t want to shell out that much for a bottle of bourbon, but it would be worth the search at a bar or restaurant or liquor store’s tasting bar for a sample. Or just bite the bullet and buy a bottle. Keep it in your private stash, hidden away from the wife or the husband, right next to your Whitesnake cassette tapes.

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Elijah Craig releases a rye

Elijah Craig rye

Say hi to Elijah Rye.

As a bourbon writer, I run to the mailbox as soon as I get home every day. Unfortunately, I encounter more bills than fun packages, but every now and then, I get something truly special.

Case in point — a box from Heaven Hill that contained a sample of the new Elijah Craig Rye Whiskey and a loaf of rye bread baked by Master Distiller Conor O’Driscoll himself!

Of course I popped that bottle open as soon as I could and enjoyed the sweet and spicy nectar. But I also savored the bread and ate a slice every morning for breakfast until it was gone. One day I even made a sandwich with two slices — and it was wonderful. Thanks, Conor!

rye sandwich

Turkey on rye.

But back to the rye. The mashbill includes 51% rye, 35% corn and 14% malted barley, making it pretty smooth for a rye whiskey with that much corn in it.

I could sip this neat all day, but I also believe it’ll be quite tasty in a cocktail like an Old Fashioned, because that rye won’t take any shit from the sugar.

And for those still in shock from the Angel’s Envy sticker price, this is much more affordable. Elijah Craig Rye Whiskey will be released this month in North Carolina, South Carolina, George and Oregon — What? No Kentucky?!?! — and retail for $29.99.

I suppose since you can’t get it here, you all can stop by and sample some of mine.

Just like Conor’s bread, fine whiskey was meant to be shared.

Angel's Envy cocktail menu

Cocktails about nothin’? The Angel’s Envy winter cocktail menu is all about ‘Seinfeld’

Angel's Envy cocktail menu

A cocktail menu about nothing. | Photo by Sara Havens

You know those people. They go around quoting “Seinfeld” like the show just came out last week — and you’re supposed to understand (and laugh at) every little inside phrase from sponge worthy to close talker to no soup for you!

I get it. I respect “Seinfeld,” but I’m here to confess I never was an avid watcher. My first front-page story, however, was covering the series finale for my college newspaper The Post in Athens, Ohio. I hopped from dorm room to coffee shop reporting on people’s devastation that the nine-year show was coming to an end. That was 1998.

And this is 2020. Which is actually a quote from one of my journalism heroes, Barbara Walters, but that’s another story.

While you all with taste were engrossed in “Seinfeld,” I was more enamored with “Melrose Place,” “Friends” and “Blossom.”

But back to the show about nothing and its tremendous support group of die-hards. I stopped by Angel’s Envy Distillery Tuesday afternoon for several reasons — one of which I cannot talk about until next week*. The one I can mention is the distillery bar’s new menu for winter, which is COMPLETELY “SEINFELD”-THEMED!

Mike Bohn

Angel’s Envy Bar Manager Mike John talks “Seinfeld” and cocktails. | Photo by Sara Havens

I’ll list the names of the drinks below, which I’m sure all you nerdy fanatics will understand 100%. I was more interested in the ingredients, but that’s just me. The one we got to sample was called The Beach, which I don’t get the reference to, but it was delicious! It was made with Angel’s Envy Rye, Averna, coconut, black walnut and salt.

The talented Angel’s Envy Bar Manager Mike Bohn whipped it up for us and explained the concept behind the menu and the cocktail. And the idea is pretty simple: Everyone loves “Seinfeld,” including us. So let’s make a cocktail menu based on popular words or phrases from the show.

As a cocktail consumer, the options are both creative and appealing. So why not mix craft drinks and comedy — with a twist of skill and a wink to pop culture?

*Stay tuned for a very special episode of The Bar Belle next week, where I’ll tell you why I was really at Angel’s Envy. 

 

For your viewing pleasure, here’s the list of drinks on the Angel’s Envy winter menu:

  • The Summer of George — Angel’s Envy Bourbon, grapefruit, lime, maple, allspice
  • Serenity Now — Angel’s Envy, yellow chartreuse, St. Germain, cacao, chipotle
  • I Don’t Want to be a Pirate! — Angel’s Envy, aged rum, Velvet Falernum, cinnamon, peppercorn
  • Festivus Flip — Angel’s Envy Rye, winter spice, cream, egg, soda
  • Come Back, One Year! — Angel’s Envy, cream, spices, butter (served hot or cold)
  • Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That — Angle’s Envy, tamarind, quince, white port, citrus, gremant
  • The Beach — Angel’s Envy Rye, Averna, coconut, black walnut, salt
  • The Jr. Mint — Angle’s Envy, chocolate, mint, genepy, coconut, milk
  • No Soup For You — Featured cocktail of the day

Also new at the Angel’s Envy bar is a library of cask strength Angel’s Envy that dates back to 2013! Giddyup!