Tag Archives: Angel’s Envy

WhiskyFest NYC – So much time, so little to do…scratch that, reverse it!!

‘Twas the night before WhiskyFest and all through the land, a lot of whisky was sipped on, especially Arran (yes, I know it doesn’t really rhyme).

Busy, busy, busy.  Here I was, the evening before WhiskyFest and I had a big whisky pouring event I was doing for the Kosher Wine Society.  Whiskies poured that night were: Glenmorangie Original, Usquaebach Reserve Premium, Usquaebach 15 Year Old, Usquaebach ‘Old-Rare’ and the new Arran 14yr.  The event was at Solo on Madison Ave – an amazing Glatt Kosher restaurant, BTW.

Put quickly & simply, I was honored to have been asked to speak at the event.  A big thanks to Aron Ritter of the Kosher Wine Society for asking me to speak.

Prior to this, I met up with Andy Hogan of Arran Distillery and we shared a few beers at St. Andrews.  Just as we ordered our little snickety-snacks, John Hansell of Malt Advocate, and shortly after that Richard “The Nose” Paterson of Whyte & Mackay, (with his freshly shaved mustache) walked in.

I met up with Andy for a few reasons:

A) He’s a heck of a guy and fun to drink with.

B) I asked him if he’d join us at our dinner with the Kosher Wine Society and he jumped at the chance.

C) Andy had some Arran 14yr for me to pour at the dinner and, for my own personal consumption, a bottle of the Arran 15yr Open Day, Distillery Only whisky!  Wham-bam-thank-you-Andy!

While talking with John Hansell, he eyed the two Arran beauties and remarked that he’s never had the Open Day bottling (not many people had — only 600 bottles ever produced).  Being the nice guy that I am, I took a running jump at a chance to share my Arran with someone such as Mr. Hansell.  He graciously jumped at the chance to taste the stuff 🙂

Andy did a fine job talking about both the 14yr and 15yr Arran whiskies.  Both are super fine drams (as pointed out by all of us at the table – tasting notes to come in a couple fo weeks).

After this private tasting, Andy and I headed off to Solo for the whisky pairing event.  While there, we met up with many, many good people including Noah Goldstein of Usquaebach and Aron Ritter, President of the Kosher Wine Society.  It was a pleasure to be a part of the event.  Again, thanks Aron!

So there we were, Andy Hogan & Joshua Hatton, bellies full of food & whisky — what to do next?  Well, head over to Ward III to meet Parker Beam and taste his new Evan Williams 2001 Single Barrel whiskey!  Sadly, we were too late and missed that event completely.  We did, however, get to meet up with Greenie D McGee (World traveler, prankster…Ladies’ man!).

So, what now?

Let’s fast forward about 20 hours into the future to the evening of WhiskyFest.

The folks at Malt Advocate were nice enough to comp a press pass for me to join the festivities (thank you again!).  Sadly, this detail did not make it to the press-pass list and with the place so packed, I had a bit of a fight to get the folks in charge of the passes to let me in.  Thankfully, Amy Westlake (John Hansell’s wife and basically the person in command of the event) was passing by and she vouched for me.  Thanks Amy!

Into WhiskyFest I went – Glencairn in hand and ready to sip on some VIP hour whisky goodness!  First stop — Arran.  I had to try some of the new Machrie Moor PEATED Arran.  A cask strength beauty which was lightly peated and complimented the Arran spirit so well.  Andy had a bottle in hand and was at the ready to pour.  Watch out!  Peated Arran, coming your way!

Stop number 2 – Compass Box to taste the new 10th Anniversary dram – The Flaming Heart.  People who say they do not like blends will miss out on the specialness that is Compass Box.  Robin Robinson, Compass Box Ambassador and all around nice guy, poured an ample sample for me.  I was happy.

Where to next? Angel’s Envy to finally meet Wes Henderson (who I recently interviewed here) and his dad, Lincoln Henderson, the artist who designed the new Angel’s Envy Bourbon (review of that whiskey here).

I’ve been in contact with Wes for sometime now and have heard from him bits and pieces of the many issues that present themselves when you go about releasing new whiskies.  It’s a tough process, no doubt.  So, as a way of saying “congrats” on the pending launch of Angel’s Envy, I presented Wes with his very own Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society (Honorary Whisky Heeb) T-Shirt.

After this, I hoped from table to table seeing what else there was to see/taste.

I made a point to stop at the Amrut table to meet Raj.  Raj, of Purple Valley Importers fame, was the person kind enough to send me samples of the Amrut line for review.  I had to say hello, say thank you and taste some of the limited Amrut Intermediate Sherry expression.  The Intermediate Sherry whisky was a big spicy dram though easily tamed with a dash of water.  I’ve got a sample on it’s way to me for a formal review.  Expect to see my tasting notes soon.

Other whiskies of note – Dry Fly 100% Wheat whiskey out of Washington state.  Duncan Taylor 12yr peated Bunnahabhain (one of my faves of the evening), Springbank CV, Longrow CV, Yamazaki 1984 (at $600/bottle, it was nice to have a chance to taste this nectar), Stranahan’s Colorado “Snowflake” triple wood whiskey and Glenrothes 1975 vintage.

Lots of whiskies were missed — with more than 300 whiskies on hand to taste, it’s to be expected.

I did get to try the new Black Grouse – a solid blend folks!  While at the Grouse table, I met up with Dan Friedman of The Jewish Daily Forward and we got a chance to talk about whisky.  And actually, Dan was nice enough to lay down some of our conversation here.

All of the seminars looked great to me but I was only able to attend one – Suntory’s seminar with their Master Distiller, Mike Miyamoto.  Mike did a great job taking us through the Yamazaki & Hibiki line as well as give a good history of the Suntory owned Japanese distilleries.  We learned quite a bit about the importance of oak on their whiskies; not just type of oak (American, European & Japanese) but type of cask used.  It was all very interesting.  Mike is a VERY serious guy and extremely passionate about his whiskies.  It was great to see him sip on the stuff and start spouting out tasting notes.  Eyes closed, mind working, taste buds tasting.

I got to the event, and was in the door, by 5:30 and before I knew it my iPhone was telling me that it was 9:15.  Time is fun when you’re having flies.

Earlier in the evening, when I was at the Angel’s Envy table, I missed an opportunity to meet/talk with Lincoln Henderson (creator of Woodford Reserve Bourbon and now, Angel’s Envy) so I rushed back to see if he was there.  Luckily for me, he was.  What a charming guy!  I had a nice quick conversation with him but, had I the chance, I would have loved to talk with him longer – with over 40yrs in the business, he’s got to have some AMAZING stories!

So, this brings us to the end of my experience.  A complete whirlwind tour of the event.  Almost overwhelming.  Actually, it was overwhelming.  I could envision this being a fantastic two day event (hint, hint, nudge, nudge).

I’ve heard complaints recently of the cost of a ticket — $120 (regular admission) $160 (VIP admission).  The VIP hour alone is worth the cash.  First off, most of these whiskies are hard to find in one place and, if you did find them, you’d pay double or triple that (at least) to taste them all.  Plus, the food is spectacular.  Great seminars to attend, etc…

If it comes close to where you are, do not miss this next year.  And, if you do go – make sure you come prepared.  Like having a birthing plan for when a woman goes into labor, I’d suggest you come to one of these events with a clear cut agenda.  What do you need to discover, who do you need to talk to, what seminars are available, etc…  Map it all out and STICK TO THAT PLAN.  I would have done that but I left my plan at home.  Oy.

A day in the life of… Wesley Henderson, COO of Louisville Distilling Co. (AKA, makers of Angel’s Envy Bourbon)

And now for the sixth installment to my interview series.

As you hopefully know by now, I’ve started series of interviews to help demystify some of the many aspects of the whisk(e)y industry.  Who makes it, how they do it, how they got into it, how to they sell, promote it, market it, etc…  While this series is called “A Day in the Life”, it will focus on more than on just a single day in the life of a Cooper, Sales Person, Ambassador, Master Blender, Independent reviewer/critic, etc…  I try to get a full picture of what they do from day to day.  Also, I will try to get a little personal (without making said person or people blush).

For previous interviews I’ve done, please see the links below (at the end of this interview).

I am honored to have had the opportunity to talk with and interview Wesley Henderson, COO of the Louisville Distilling Company and son of Lincoln Henderson, creator of the new Angel’s Envy Bourbon.

Joshua: Wesley, please explain who you are and what you do for The Louisville Distilling Company – on a day-to-day basis (or week to week, month to month if that makes it easier).

Wesley: My title is Chief Operating Officer.  At the moment, my life is consumed with all of the logistics required to bring a new consumer product to market.  We have bourbon produced in Kentucky, port barrels from Portugal, glass production from Italy, corks from Portugal, glass decoration in Canada, paper package elements from Ohio, cardboard cases from Indiana, marketing Managing Partner in Colorado, finance Managing Partner in Illinois, and distribution Managing Partner in Florida.  My job is to have all of these elements converge at the same time to bring Angel’s Envy Bourbon to the shelves.  I am also actively working on plans for our distillery, which will most likely be located in the downtown Louisville area next year.

Joshua: As you had mentioned in our phone conversation, Angel’s Envy bourbon is the brainchild Lincoln Henderson, your father.  Can you explain, to those people who may not know, who Lincoln is and what he has done with and for the American Whiskey market?

Wesley: To me, Lincoln is just “Dad”, but I am always in awe of what he has accomplished and what he has contributed to the history of distilled spirits in general, and whiskies in specific.  While he is probably best known as the creator of Woodford Reserve Bourbon, which has been a huge commercial success, Lincoln spent the better part of 40 years at Brown-Forman, where he was responsible for their whiskies worldwide.  Wine and Spirits has described him as a “living legend”, and he was inaugural member of the Bourbon Hall of Fame.

Joshua: How is Angel’s Envy different from other bourbons out on the market today?  Is there a different process you use in distilling and/or maturation?

Wesley: The big difference with our first expression will be the port barrel finish.  The bourbon Lincoln has sourced for Angel’s Envy was selected with the finishing process in mind, and the profile, while done in the traditional Kentucky bourbon methodology, is most conducive to what we set out to accomplish with the final product.

Joshua: Do you have a target demographic (or better yet, type of drinker) for your bourbon?  In other words, how would you feel about people using your product in a mint julip, whiskey sour or any other type of mixed drink?

Wesley: The demographics for premium bourbons are changing.  Ten years ago, the premium bourbon consumer was closely aligned with the demographics of single malt consumers.  In general terms, this would have been a white male, 45+.  Over the last few years, the average age has dropped to what I would categorize as 35+, with more and more younger folks appreciating bourbon.  With the recent cocktail revivals, and popularity of bourbon in cooking, we are seeing more females turning to premium bourbons.

Up until recently, as a purist, I would cringe when I saw a good bourbon mixed in any drink.  I am now growing to appreciate the complexity of bourbon as it translates to cocktails, and even enjoying some of these creations.

As a Kentucky boy…I always appreciate a mint julep…

Joshua: As sort of a follow up question to Angel’s Envy being used as a mixer — what will the price point for your whiskey?

Wesley: The price point is $45.99 per 750ml.

Joshua: How many bottles did you produce for this first batch of whiskey and how long do you expect it to last?  Additionally, what are your plans for your 2nd, 3rd & 4th releases?  Different finishes?  Change to the mash bill?  Limited expressions?

Wesley: We are bottling only 8000 6-bottle cases in the first round, and are working right now on how to allocate.  There are a number of different finishes planned, a cask strength bottling, along with some other interesting twists.  As we get our own production facility online, the possibilities are unlimited.  We have also been exploring historic recipes, varying grain bills, enhanced maturation, and varying barrel entry proofs.

Joshua: Being that your bourbon is one that is finished in non-newly charred oak barrels, who chooses the finishing barrels and could you explain that process?

Wesley: The port barrels for finishing are hand-selected by Lincoln, and are sent to the US from Portugal.  The barrels are filled with bourbon, placed on the top floor of the warehouse, and are dumped when Lincoln is satisfied with the finish.  This can take 4-6 months.

Joshua: As you’ve explained to me on the phone, you are currently getting your spirit distilled off site.  When do you plan on distilling on property and how do you feel the whiskey will change, if at all, by the change in location, water source and stills?

Wesley: This is a real challenge.  Since Angel’s Envy Bourbon will be well established in the marketplace by the time we are online with our own facility, it is very important that our core product remains consistent.  By releasing “expressions”, we have given ourselves some latitude and creative “wiggle room”.  To this end, I am embracing subtle changes in our product, and we will actually draw attention to these subtleties.

Joshua: I’ve got to say, from all I’ve seen of the Angel’s Envy product shots, that is one sexy bottle!  Who came up with that design and where/how are these being produced?

Wesley: One of our business partners, and our Chief Creative, is Alex Bogusky, and his team is responsible for the package design.   Alex is the former Chairman of Crispin Porter+Bogusky, one of the world’s most awarded agencies, and agency of record for brands such as Microsoft, Volkswagen, Dominoes Pizza, Burger King, Coke Zero and Old Navy.  Under Alex’s leadership, CP+B has over 1,000 employees, and offices in Miami, Boulder, Los Angeles, Canada, London and Sweden.  Our glass production, and related design elements, have all been coordinated by Saxco International, in Louisville.  The glass is produced in Italy.

Joshua: One thing I try to focus on with my blog is what dram to drink for a particular mood or season.  Being that Angel’s Envy is being released in Autumn, would you say it’s more of a cooler weather whiskey?  Do you approach personal consumption in this manner?

Wesley: Personally, I don’t approach spirits in this way.  One of the great things about bourbon is that it is so versatile, and there are ways to enjoy the spirit year-round.

Now to get a bit personal…

Joshua: How did you get into whiskies?  Did you have a gateway whisky?  Do you have a story that goes with it?

Wesley: Since my father spent his entire career at Brown-Forman, since I was a child, I remember the smell of grains cooking and fermentation, as I would often go to work with Dad on Saturdays.  I had the entire R&D lab at my disposal, and remember a particular interest in the yeast strains.

Joshua: What passions, other than whisk(e)y do you have?

Wesley: Most of my free time is spent with my six children.  I am pretty active as a football and basketball coach.  I also hold a pilot’s license, and love to fly, when my wife lets me.

Joshua: Do you have a list of Top Drams or perhaps some Desert Island Drams you’d like to share?

Wesley: Yamazaki 1984

Joshua: Without giving out names & places (basically, without getting yourself into any trouble), do you have any funny, interesting or bizarre stories from any of your events/travels that you wish to share?

Wesley: Sadly, I don’t have many exciting stories from the industry. Working in radio and the entertainment industry in a previous life has armed me with a number of tales, none of which are appropriate for mixed company.

I am blessed to spend time with some of the true masters of whiskey, and I am always amazed with the rich history of our industry.  As an example, I spent some time with Jimmy Russell in San Francisco a few weeks ago, and I was thinking about how one day I would like to be remembered for my contributions to the industry.

Of course, Lincoln is my true role model, and if I can manage to absorb 1/3 of his knowledge, then I will be grateful.

Joshua: Lastly, if you had a message or lesson to give people who are just getting into whiskies, what would that be?

Wesley: Spend some time learning the basics.  Learn about production and history of whiskies, and embrace the wide range of opportunities.  Try EVERYTHING, and settle into what you find to be the most pleasing.

Tomorrow I will be featuring my tasting notes on the new Angel’s Envy bourbon.  As a slight preview and in a word: decadence.

My previous interviewees are:

Serge Valentin of Whisky Fun! and Malt Maniacs

Sam Simmons of The Balvenie

Stuart Nickerson of Glenglassaugh (Part one and Part two)

Alan Shayne of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) of America

The good folks from Master of Malt