Kentucky Rye – Angel’s Envy Rum Finished Rye 50%

We all know about the angel’s share…. the portion of whisky that evaporates while quietly maturing in barrels – typically 5% a year in the case of Kentucky bourbon.

The brand “Angel’s Envy” is a multigenerational affair – Master Distiller Lincoln Henderson came out out retirement from a lifetime in the whiskey industry to collaborate with his son, Wes, on a bourbon finished in Port barrels. Wes’s son Kyle then also joined the family business.

The story goes that after tasting their inaugural whiskey, Lincoln joked that they’d “finally gotten a better deal than the angels.” Hence Angel’s Envy brand was created by Louisville Distilling Company, now a subsidiary of Bacardi Limited.

After Bourbon finished in Port, they turned to Rye finished in Rum casks and Cask strength series finished in Port. Our host selected the Rye finished Rum… and this is what we found…

Angel’s Envy Rum Barrel Finished Rye 50% Batch I0T, Bottle 291

  • Nose – A very strong unmistakable burnt caramel, treacle, maple syrup, bananas and cream, some salted caramel, coca cola, rich, sugary and creamy
  • Palate – Like a fine rum… it was one of those drams we can call “desert in a glass”, bread pudding, nutmeg, coconut cream
  • Finish – Sweet spice that lingers

There was zero question the rum had a strong influence here. And no ordinary rum – this was clearly quality stuff. We thought of rums like Criterion and others Lucas has introduced to the world such as Long Pond.

I have to admit this was unlike any rye I’ve ever tried. It was simply sinfully sweet… and yet when it came to the cigar, wasn’t happening. The very elements that made it so unique, were the same elements that prompted us to steer clear of pairing with a cigar. This Rye demands to fly solo, no accompaniment.

I stumbled across this insight from the folks at Flaviar:

Angel’s Envy Rye starts life as a quality, but rather traditional mix of 95% Rye and 5% malted barley. Bulleit, Dickle… a lot of the top guys use this mix because it works well. This is where Angel’s Envy works their magic. First, they age it a full six years in medium-char American oak. Then they finish it for an additional 18 months in Rum casks, but not just “any” Rum casks. These are “THE” Rum casks from Plantation Rum… the ones that started as Cognac casks from Maison Ferrand. So Angel’s Envy Rye is third in a line of super-premium awesomeness in those casks, emerging 7 1/2 years old. No more sales pitch, you just think about that for a minute and get back to us.

What the makers of Angel’s Envy share as their tasting notes?

  • Appearance – Crystal clear quality with a rich, reddish amber color
  • Nose – Aromas of citrus, caramel candy, maple sugar, vanilla, oak, hazelnut, spice, and sherry wood
  • Palate – Sweet rum, sherry wood, and soft oak
  • Finish – Both sweet and dry, as well as quick and easy

What else did we try in our Kentucky Rye evening?

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Kentucky Rye – Wilderness Trail Single Barrel 56.5%

Our host set himself a very clear goal – to bring together a quartet of Kentucky Rye that reflects the range of possibilities…

Next up was a single barrel from Wilderness Trail at full cask strength… Spoiler alert! This was simply exceedingly drinkable, pairing perfectly with a cigar!

In this case the magic lies in a few things these folks are doing a bit differently….  They talk of their unique yeast strains, proprietary Infusion Mashing Process, chemical free steam, largely locally sourced grains from nearby farms (except barley from the northern US)… but what is truly unique is the use of sweet rather than sour mash.

Sour mash uses spent mash from the previous batch in the new one, reducing bacterial infestations and the preferred method since the 1800s. Sweet mash is ‘fresh’ each time and considered ‘risky’ due to potential for contamination. Hence the guys at Wilderness Trail designed their whole approach around a highly sanitized process that enabled them produce spirit that is “softer” and “more flavorful”. You can read more about this in Fred Minnick’s Forbes’ article.

As always, what matters most is what we found in our tasting….

Wilderness Trail Single Barrel 15017 Kentucky Straight Rye 56.5%

  • Nose – What a nose! Toffee, caramel, juicy
  • Palate – Fabulous! Sweet desert, soft and sooo smooth, quite chewy… and while certainly was from the Rye family, there were other things going on that blended together rather well, some sweet spices, tobacco leaf and caramel
  • Finish – Long, sweet with a lovely spice

We quite enjoyed this one. You could hear appreciative words around the room “Fabulous” “Wow what a finish!” “Zero burn” In short, it went down rather well with the most balanced character – sweet but not too sweet, spice but not too much spice, quite delightful on the nose, substance on the palate with a terrific finish.

As usual, we set it aside to try the last one – Angel’s Envy – which was pure burnt caramel and treacle. When we returned to this one, what stood out was how everything simply worked together – each element adding its bit but none too much. It was no surprise when the Gurkha Seduction cigar was paired with the Wilderness Trail.

I was curious about this one as it clearly held its own… It was sweet, well rounded with a a lovely balance… again it was only when I sat down to write my tasting notes that I learned this combines corn and barley from a sweet rather than sour mash – clearly accounting for its character.

Definitely one to watch out for!

What did the folks at Wilderness Trail have to say?

Our Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskeys are offered as a Cask Strength release. We have the lowest entry proof we know of in Kentucky. We barrel at 100 proof to highlight the balance of the grains and alternate solubility expression from the barrel. Our three-grain recipe is 56 percent rye, 33 percent corn and 11 percent malted barley. Our rye mash bill is one we created for a broader balance of flavor to offset the typical high ryes commonly found. We use Kentucky-grown Heritage rye from our local KY Proud farm. We enter the new, air-dried #4 char, 53-gallon barrels at 100 proof for our Rye Whiskey and age until maturity in our barrelhouse. We age our Rye Whiskeys on the upper floors of our Rickhouses A & B, arguably one reason for their vibrant expression at 3 + years. We plan to age our Ryes as long as our Bourbons — in the 6-8 year age range — but we do plan to introduce some 3 and 4 year old Rye Whiskeys as Cask Strength releases. We just keep finding wonderful honey-barrels with great expressions that need to be explored.

What else was on our Kentucky Rye menu?

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Kentucky Rye – New Riff Kentucky Straight Rye 50%

Our host started our evening by asking if we were familiar with the quartet of Kentucky Rye we were about to try? Most of us had heard of Basil Hayden’s – more for their Bourbon than Rye – however I simply had to admit I had never heard of New Riff distillery before.

We can be forgiven for that living in India as this is a new entry into the Kentucky whiskey world – having started only in 2014 as a small, independent, family owned distillery. This bottle was picked up from the distillery and likely one of their initial batches from Spring 2019.

The idea of “New Riff” is to build on Kentucky bourbon and rye making traditions… They use 95% rye and 5% malted rye, aged for at least four years in 53 gallon toasted and charred new oak barrels, no chill filtration and “bottled in bond.”

Just in case you are curious, “bottled in bond” is a label for an American-made distilled beverage that has been aged and bottled according to a set of legal regulations contained in the United States government’s Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits, as originally laid out in the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897.

So what did we find?

New Riff Kentucky Straight Rye (Spring 2019) 50%

  • Colour – Bright gold
  • Nose – Started a bit soft, hint of tobacco – perhaps charred oak? Fruits, tart and sweet candy, has a nice hint of spice, back to the candy…
  • Palate – Banana, that distinctive rye spice, then became sweet and syrupy
  • Finish – VERY dry, sour mash, dry dust rag…
  • Water – Rather than add water, we first took a good swig of cold water then sipped the rye… Ugh! No no no no no no! Very bitter, all that dry element accentuated further…. for us at least, having this neat is perfection!

Overall most found it quite nice though not complex. The nose and palate were the strongest with the finish almost a bit TOO dry.

There was something almost rustic about this one. There was no question this was a rye however it was not in the least bit harsh… even at 50%. Perhaps its age or other elements accounts for the happy absence of “kick” found in some rye that cry out for a mix! And I also had a sneaking suspicion this rye would easily hold its own in a quality cocktail.

We set it aside to continue our journey through Kentucky ryes… on the revisit we found the spice remained… again one that made me wonder, what would it be like in a cocktail?

What did the folks at New Riff have to say?

  • Appearance: Extra rich, unfiltered deep amber color.
  • Nose: Spicy and detailed, showing mint, black pepper, and vanilla with hints of orange and oak.
  • Taste: Cinnamon spice, vanilla and sweet toffee moving into a bold mouth feel with rich Rye spice, caramel and toasted oak. Complex flavors drink older than four-year-old.
  • Finish: Bold Rye spice with vanilla buttercream and lingering brown sugar, plus a mineral-grassy Rye tone that fades slowly.

What else did we try in our journey through Kentucky Rye?

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Kentucky Rye – Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye 40%

Our host shared he wanted to start with the Basil Hayden’s one as it was an ‘outlier’ in flavour profile and approach. He also shared the reason he wanted to focus on Rye is the ‘liberties’ that can be taken to explore a range of combinations without any major restrictions.

Hence this was not simply matured in a Port cask…. it actually had Port simply blended with the Kentucky Straight Rye and Alberta Rye!

Which I somehow hadn’t clued into until after our tasting… no wonder our notes keep coming back to cherries and port!

Here is what we thought…

Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye 40%

  • Colour – Such a vibrant ruby red it was unreal! (the photo does NOT do justice to the colour!)
  • Nose – Started off a bit peculiar – like it was whiskey at all! Then shifted into orange, cloves, a bit musty and metallic, old wood polish, then increasingly the black cherries of the port became more and more pronounced, peaking behind was some vanilla custard… after the 1st sip, it took a sour almost sharp quality, lots of wood, vanilla and above all cherries
  • Palate – Sour fruits, dark cherries, spice comes in from behind… better on the 2nd sip, oily, sweet… while quite linear had different dimensions, becoming sweeter and sweeter with each sip, the port element remains strong, wood and even a bit of whey
  • Finish – Definitely there

Fresh out of the bottle it was a good place to start – while the three elements were not melding together cohesively, it did make for an interesting interplay. Unlike most where port is an accent from being matured in ex-port pipes, this was full on port… which clearly is due to it literally being added to the mix!

We set it aside and when we returned? It was like coconut water that has gone a bit off… after the cask strength and diverse other ryes, this one at 40% seemed watered down… back to being slightly queer or different.

While it may not be for everyone, it was certainly interesting to try! After later reading the notes it might go well on the rocks, perhaps with a twist of orange or as a cocktail such a Sazerac of Whisky Sour.

What did the folks at Basil Hayden’s have to say?

Blending is an art form, and our Dark Rye is your chance to own what might very well be a masterpiece.

It all begins with Kentucky Rye, providing a firm foundation of spice, oak, dried fruit and subtle molasses undertones for this release to build upon. From there, Canadian Rye from our award-winning Alberta Distillery is skillfully layered in. A touch of California Port, and its complementary notes of ripe fruit, provides the third and final layer to a whiskey just as at home on the rocks as it is in a cocktail.

Full in flavor, yet delicately nuanced, you’d be wise to grab a bottle of our Dark Rye to experience this magical blend for yourself.

  • Color – Deep, rich amber with ruby undertones
  • Aroma – Oaky notes balanced with dark berries and molasses
  • Taste – Complex blend of caramel, dried fruit, and oak with back notes of spice and a rounded mouth feel
  • Finish – Lingering dried fruit with a hint of sweetness and rye spice.

What else was on our Kentucky Rye menu?

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Kentucky Rye – Basil Hayden’s, New Riff, Wilderness Trail, Angel’s Envy

Once upon a time, our Bombay Malt & Cigar lads stuck to their mature Scottish single malts. No more! If anything this Mumbai based tasting group’s quest to expand our horizons has taken on the world in style – Australia, Canada, EuropeIreland, Japan and USA!

With our globe trotting explorations, we have gone far beyond malts too… We’ve taken on grain, lots of different blends, bourbons (a few times!), even rums!

Yet with all this, not once has this group sat down together and cracked open Rye whiskies!

Our recent session rectified this gap and how! We meandered through a carefully curated quartet designed to introduce us to a distinctly different range of Rye – playing with various elements from a Kentucky Rye base.

  • Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye 40% – A blend of Kentucky straight rye, Canadian rye and California Port… not that’s not a finish! That is directly blending port with rye… and it shows with strong port influence with dark cherries
  • New Riff Kentucky Straight Rye 50% – New kid on the block with one of their early batches, aged at least 4 years, following the traditions of Bottled in Bond with a recipe of 95% rye and 5% malted rye
  • Wilderness Trail Single Barrel 56.5% – Not just from a single barrel but also a small batch that produced only 203 bottles at cask strength! This one uses a sweet rather than sour mash with a recipe of 53% rye, 33% corn and 11% malted barley… which likely accounts for the soft, smooth and flavourful experience with terrific  balance
  • Angel’s Envy Rum Finished Rye 50% – Clearly the ‘premium’ end of the spectrum finished in Plantation Caribbean rum barrels (which were earlier used for Cognac)… this was pure desert in a glass bursting with treacle

Our host was completely successful in bringing to us a range of styles with different dimensions…

As for the cigar for our evening? Gurkha’s Seduction… in a ridiculous box but quite enjoyable from start to finish… Medium bodied blend with Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, Columbian Corojo long-fillers, secured by a Dominican Olor binder.

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Minis – BenRiach 22 year Moscatel 46% (SMSW)

BenRiach is one of those distilleries that rose, fell and rose again… and one that we’ve quite enjoyed during our various explorations. However this was a first with a Moscatel finish.

What did we think?

BenRiach 22 year Moscatel 46% (Single Malt Scotch Whisky)

  • Colour – Burnished copper
  • Nose – Fruit bursting forth, nuts, chocolats, juicy sultanas, sweet dry wood, amazing nose, cinnamon, nutmeg, like a pie or a tart, black peppercorn, keeps shifting between sweet and tart and spice… all before the 1st sip!
  • Palate – Wow! Soft then explodes, rich, sweet, dry tannins.. such a wonderful balance. with sweet spices, oranges
  • Finish – Spice – long and lingers wonderfully, loads happening, so sweet and delicious
  • Water – In one glass we added water whereas in the other we did not.The one with water was beautifully balanced. And yet we equally enjoyed it absolutely neat.

This whisky simply enveloped us in a great big whisky hug… yet shifting and changing, retaining brilliant balance between the different elements.

Like the others, we set it aside and revisited it after sampling the full quintet of minis. What did we find in the revisit?

Absolutely fabulous! Fruity with an outstanding finish.

What they have to say

This whisky was originally matured in American bourbon barrels before being finished in Moscatel wine casks from Portugal and Spain. During this second period of maturation, the spirit subtly interacts with the oak wood and takes on new flavours and aromas from the Moscatel wine cask. The 22 year old is non chill filtered, natural in colour and bottled at 46% abv.

Our Sales Director Alistair Walker said: “Moscatel is a sweet fortified wine, hailing from Portugal and Spain, which adds a buttery-soft, spicy and fruity dimension to the whisky. The result is a superlative malt in the classic BenRiach style. It is lusciously rich, velvety and full-flavoured, delivering superb dried fruit and honeyed sweetness, like a good apple crumble.”

  • Colour – Rich gold mahogany.
  • Nose – A full, sumptuous nose consisting of dark orange marmalade, rich fig syrup and sweet dates. A dusting of cocoa and cinnamon followed by a gentle hint of garden mint adds a luxurious character.
  • Palate – Rich, velvety dark chocolate fondant topped with glazed maraschino cherries develops to plum cordial and spiced honey. The long finish is rounded with a gentle, earthy balance of nutmeg, stewed barley and old vintage leather.
  • Finish – A rich body laden with dark Mediterranean fruits and a complementary balance of warm spices and delicate oak characters.

What else did we try in our minis evening?

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Minis – Glenrothes (1992) Lustau Sherry 55.3%

We all have certain distilleries we know and love. And others that past experiences influence perceptions – understandably. For my tasting companion, Glenrothes has been more of a disappointment than reward. Whereas for me – I’ve had more positives than negatives.

Glenrothes (1992/2016) Cask 1 Lustau Sherry Finish 55.3%

  • Colour – Gold
  • Nose – Sour, sweet, sweet leather, fibrous, malt mash, tarter, rubharbh.. After 1st sip, musty, talcum… the 2nd sip salty sour plums…
  • Palate – Full flavoured, we loved the tartness, chewy, evolving salt and sour, sherry yum
  • Finish – Dry, tart, then a flat burn
  • Water – Brushfire then spice and plums, less sour, more orange oils, with a spicy fruit finish

We initially thought this is a great early evening dram! Most enjoyable and a good contrast to the Edradours and BenRiachs we earlier sampled.

So we set it aside, returning to find it slightly pungent, shifting between sweet, sour, chaat masala with delicious mixed berries.

What do the folks at Master of Malt have to say?

A delicious release from the Glenrothes Wine Merchant’s Collection range (each of which has been finished in different types of cask from top producers). This whisky was finished in a cask that was previously home to tasty Lustau Sherry! A release of 648 bottles.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

  • Nose: Sticky toffee pudding, raisins and plums.
  • Palate: Citrus begins to develop on the palate (perhaps lemon drizzle cake). Soon joined by dark chocolate.
  • Finish: White grapes, orange peels.

While it is now sold out, it went for approximately $200.

We also sampled these four more drams in our minis evening?

Curious about other Glenrothes experiences?

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Minis – Edradour 17 year (1999) Bordeaux Cask Finish 55.2%

I gotta admit, I’ve had hit and miss experiences with wine finishes but generally like most Edradour whiskies so was very curious to see what they did with a Bordeaux finish.

Edradour 17 year (1999) Bordeaux Cask Finish 55.2%

  • Nose – Started with a peculiar rubber, plastic… then citrus, sour, tannins, ripe dark plum, a sharpness, spice at the back, grapes. After the 1st sip, big nose, bursting with fruits, oats, wet hay, porridge, brown sugar and raisins, stewed apple peels
  • Palate – Dry wood, lots of flavour, prunes and plums, dark cherries, solid body, touch of leather
  • Finish – Stays, a subtle spice that holds…  extremely long with a fruity tale
  • Water – Explosion of sweet, much more round, white peach… fabulous

The danger of storing things in hot humid Mumbai is it isn’t kind on plastic or rubber. We speculated if a bit of the initial queer aromas on opening was linked to a terrible storage mishap.

But after some time, we got past the that to – Wow! Power packed. After time, the nose settled down yet also took on a musty quality, the flavours remained big and bold.

So we set it aside to continue our explorations of the other minis. We returned and found again that slightly peculiar plastic then got past it to again wow! Compelling… it was like a completely different whisky…

  • Nose – A potpourri of aromas, rose petals, perfumes, soaped, changed again to plastic then back to fruits and berries
  • Palate – Lemon pie, eve a sweet and tart key lime pie… nope… maybe kumkuat? Mangosteens? Custard apple? Starfruit? Jackfruit?! You get it – a kaleidoscope of fruits!
  • Finish – Spice, sweet and just yum!

So what do the folks over at Master of Malts have to say?

The Edradour distillery is well known for finishing their Highland single malts in wine casks – and they get wonderfully specific with it sometimes. For example, this is a 17 year old expression, distilled in October 1999 and finished in a trio of Bordeaux hogsheads for 46 months before being bottled at cask strength in May 2017! A release of 911 bottles.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

  • Nose: Rich notes of stewed red berries and dark chocolate, with underlying menthol and parsley.
  • Palate: Oak-y spiciness begins to take shape on the palate with plenty of cinnamon, pink pepeprcorn and fresh cedar. Remains deliciously jammy with raspberries and cranberries.
  • Finish: Lasting sweetness of red liquorice.

As for what it would set you back? Approx $180.

So what did we try in our minis evening?

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Glenglassaugh Revival 46%

The best thing about sampling blind is being saved from your own prejudices.

I will have to admit my first brush with Glenglassaugh was in 2015 with an open bottle of Torfa at Quaich in Singapore. To put it mildly, I wasn’t impressed and my strongest memory was that of solvent. Fast forward two years and I had an opportunity to compare minis of both Evolution and Torfa – better, definitely better. Late 2018, I was introduced to their Peated Port Wood – certainly moving in a much better direction. And now, in May 2019 I found a Glenglassaugh that clearly hit its mark.

Yet I knew none of this when I picked up that Glencairn glass and began to sniff, swish and sip my way…

Glenglassaugh Revival 46%

  • Nose – Sour curd, spice, prunes, raising, chocolatey custard, black pepper spice which then shifted into red chillies, oily, orange cloves and Christmas pudding, tobacco, dusty
  • Palate – Greeted with a bit of spice, tobacco, prunes, medium body with a good mouthfeel, wood smoke, chestnut, caramelized apples, some oak, honey malt
  • Finish – A great chewy cherry finish, more of the prunes carried through, had staying power

Of the three whiskies sampled that evening, it was by far the most robust and complex. The character also kept changing. Most remarkable was when it was revisited there was a delightful perfume!

While I couldn’t find anything specific on the bottle which indicated which batch, our host thought it was from their first release.

What do the folks at Glenglassaugh have to say?

The Revival is the first expression released from Glenglassaugh distillery after being mothballed for more than 20 years. The Glenglassaugh Revival has been matured in a balanced mix of ex-red wine and fresh bourbon casks, vatted and re-racked for double maturation in rich sherry casks. Bottled at 46%, non chill filtered and of natural colour, Revival is a stunning Highland single malt with a coastal charm.

  • Colour: Copper
  • Nose: Sweet caramel and toffee with notes of nutty sherry, milk chocolate and honey. Ripe plums, red berries and oranges. Caramelised sugar and earthy, charred oak.
  • Palate: Sweet, rounded and creamy. Oranges, plums, cherry and walnuts, chocolate, honey-mead, sherry and soft, spiced oak.
  • Finish: Medium with warming mulled-wine spices, sherry and caramel.

While not sure where our host sourced this whisky, it is available at Master of Malt for approx $40.

What else did we try?

What about other Glenglassaugh experiences? Read on…

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The Dalmore King Alexander III 40%

What do we know about this Dalmore? That it was matured in not one or two casks but seven! Aside from the standard ex-bourbon (Kentucky) and Sherry, it also spent time in wine (unspecified), Madeira, Marsala and Port casks. The goal was to produce a unique rich, fruity Highland single malt.

However we knew none of this when we sampled it… blind…

Dalmore King Alexander III 40%

  • Colour – Deep dark burgundy
  • Nose – Dark fruits, cherries, nuts, cheap chocolate bar with nuts and raisins, curdled milk, liquorice, an oddly artificial aroma
  • Palate – A light teasing spice, a bit of mango pickle?
  • Finish – Lingers – a bit bitter then gets spicier with a fruity close… yet still a medium finish that runs away

The colour was a dead give away that something else was going on… which we later discovered with the reveal is augmented with caramel. Hmm…

Overall it was a bit disappointing nothing exceptional and there were a few odd elements that didn’t quite work.

Our host shared he received this whisky as a gift. There was no doubt the person gifting had the absolute best of intentions. And it certainly isn’t cheap – typically retailing for approx $200.

However in our humble opinion, there was more hype and high price than quality. Which is a pity.

What do the Dalmore folks have to say about the King Alexander III?

  • Aroma – Red berry fruits and hints of passion fruit
  • Palate – Citrus zest, vanilla pod, crème caramel and crushed almonds
  • Finish – Cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger

What else did we try?

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