Angel’s Envy’s First Japanese Cask Completed Bourbon Is a Stunner

It took Angel’s Envy‘s Kyle Henderson half a decade of asking round, working the telephones, and crossing his fingers to lastly get his arms on only a handful of Japanese Mizunara oak casks. “It took a superb 5 years from the idea to truly getting ahold of the barrels and getting them to the U.S.,” he says, ticking off the problems that make this coveted wooden so troublesome to acquire. “It’s so managed, the expansion of the timber is so sluggish, it doesn’t prefer to develop straight, it’s porous as heck so there’s loads of points with developing [the barrels]…”

Working with Mizunara oak (when you may get it) presents quite a few challenges, in different phrases. So when Henderson, manufacturing supervisor for Angel’s Envy distillery, managed to land just a few model new Mizunara oak barrels from a cooperage in Japan, he and his colleagues—two of whom occur to be his father, Angel’s Envy Co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer Wes Henderson, and his brother, Lead Distillery Operator Andrew Henderson—knew they needed to create one thing particular with it.

The ensuing whiskey, correctly titled Angel’s Envy Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Completed in Japanese Mizunara Oak Casks, is a mix of four-year-old and nine-year-old bourbons completed for 2 years in Japanese oak earlier than bottling. On its face, that will sound unremarkable, as cask completed whiskies—those who spend a little bit time in barrels that previously held different liquids—are very a lot en vogue as of late. However Mizunara oak barrels are not any standard casks, and Angel’s Envy is just not within the behavior of turning out standard whiskey.

Angel’s Envy Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Finished in Japanese Mizunara Oak Casks
Nathan Pedigo for Angel’s Envy

A decade in the past Wes Henderson and his father Lincoln—an trade legend by any telling—launched their first batch of bourbon into used port barrels, a apply deemed not solely unconventional however considerably heretical on the time. Angel’s Envy was born, and port ending turned one thing of a signature for the model even because it continued to push boundaries with different experimental cask regimens. This newest bottling is a tribute to each the legacy of Lincoln Henderson (who handed away in 2013) but in addition to Angel’s Envy itself, which celebrates 10 years to the day since Wes and Lincoln crammed that first port barrel with bourbon on August 19 and set the tone for a decade of forward-thinking experimentation.

Using Mizunara oak to complete this bourbon nods to a convention of doing what’s troublesome within the pursuit of excellent whiskey. Mizunara could be very old-growth oak—a 150-year-old tree can be thought-about younger for harvesting—that’s extremely regulated by Japanese forestry authorities. As Kyle Henderson notes, it grows crooked and porous, making it frustratingly troublesome for coopers to craft into watertight barrels. As such, Mizunara casks are uncommon, costly, and notoriously troublesome to return by even for Japanese distillers. You’ll be much more arduous pressed to seek out American distillers holding Mizunara barrels of their warehouses.

Older wooden additionally requires extra time to impart taste to a whiskey, even when the barrels have by no means held whiskey earlier than. Ending a whiskey in European oak casks that when held sherry or port wine takes just some brief months. Mizunara requires way more time and endurance. Two years makes for a really lengthy cask end, however because the Hendersons’ perseverance in each procuring and deploying these barrels reveals, good issues actually do come to those that wait.

Going into the bottle at 97.eight proof, their Mizunara cask completed bourbon comes out of the bottle with aromas of toasted sandalwood, reduce purple apples, and a whiff of fruit-filled, frosted breakfast pastry. On the palate come oaky notes of vanilla and spice, but in addition caramelized banana, cinnamon, apple, that give method to a end that’s peppery, flippantly smoky, and pleasantly lengthy. Although wealthy in physique and considerably decadent in taste, there’s a sure lightness and liveliness to it, closing the loop between supply liquid and ending vessel.

Sadly, the shortage of excellent Mizunara casks begets a shortage of Mizunara cask completed whiskies, one thing that makes this restricted 10th-anniversary providing from Angel’s Envy distinctive but in addition doubtlessly as troublesome to acquire because the barrels themselves. Members of the distillery’s 500 Main fan club can entry a pre-sale of the 1,200 out there bottles—which come packaged in a crystal decanter—beginning August 19 for $350. After that, remaining bottles will probably be out there on the distillery and choose retailers round Kentucky.

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