The 2018 release of Angel’s Envy Cask Strength bourbon reasserts the brand’s dominance in a particularly up-and-coming segment of the bourbon market.
We’ve had nice things to say about Angel’s Envy Cask Strength (from $134; drizly.com) in the past, but since every year is a little different, sometimes even we get curious if the quality has remained, or if the flavor has significantly changed. Well, we’re happy to report that, at least for this year, all is well.
Angel’s Envy finished its standard bourbon in port barrels year round, but once a year this limited edition comes out at a significantly higher proof—124 in the case of 2018. That’s a damn high number, but what’s frankly more surprising even to us is how soft this feels consumed neat.
We’re big proponents of adding water to cask strength whiskey here. It brings out more flavors, shows you the complexity of what’s in the glass, and there’s the added benefit of still having taste buds after two sips. But with brilliantly finished whiskeys, sometimes it’s not even necessary. And with Angel’s Envy, we nearly forgot the proof.
Finished bourbons are a quirky product. Technically the act of finishing a bourbon renders it legally no longer a bourbon, because all bourbon can only be aged in new, charred oak casks. But with products like these, describing it as “finished bourbon” is the most logical and explanatory way to label it.
The fact is that port and whiskey play very well with each other. (High West’s A Midwinter Night’s Dram is another excellent example of this, though that’s a rye whiskey.) Where bourbon brings to the table vanilla, caramel, hints of orange, and maybe even some of that bright corn sweetness, port takes the richer, dessert road here and brings notes of dark chocolate, fig, jam, raisin—all the things you’d want in a dessert whiskey.
With Angel’s Envy, in particular, we noted the entire spectrum of these notes, with a perfectly balanced finish that threaded the needle between sweet and dry. With a little water, those more syrupy notes came out, as did a little hint of spice—a mixture of baking spices and toasted oak. The whole thing had a surprising through-line of toffee: a nice, earthy dessert note that didn’t become too cloying or too, well, boring.
Port can be a wonderful finishing element for just about any whiskey if done right, but it’s this Angel’s Envy bourbon that really shows the textbook way to use it. And at Cask Strength, even for a price of around $200 a bottle, the stuff is damn high on our favorites list. There’s a total of 12,000 bottles (which are on sale now), but some markets don’t get it. So, if you can, go find yourself one to keep you warm as the cold weather rolls in this season.