In 2009, some four decades after the devil went down to Georgia, spirits of a different sort in Louisville, KY, started to experience a renaissance of sorts.
It started with the simplest of ideas: a son wanted to work with his father.
The son, Wes Henderson, had worked in the corporate world – for others – building a reputation as an astute businessman, fair employer and community patron.
Wes had spent years in the spirits industry, serving various roles including as a consultant in the distilled spirits industry and as president and CEO of Conecuh Ridge Distillery, the producer of Clyde Mays Whiskey.
The father, Lincoln Henderson, was retired from a very successful and storied career spent crafting renowned bourbons, including Woodford Reserve and Gentleman Jack. Lincoln was revered, respected and, lucky for Wes, not yet ready to stop working, even after 40 years of experience, numerous accolades and awards and a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Malt Advocate.
“To tell you the truth, I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner,” said Wes about working with his father. “I suppose I had to go find my own way first, before figuring out that what I really wanted to do was work with my dad.”
It was a lightning bolt moment.
“For me, at that stage in my life and career, it was insane to make that leap. But, to make it with my father, with the wealth of experience he had, also made a certain kind of sense,” he said.
The move paid off. Bigly.
Angel’s Envy officially launched in 2010, to the great delight of bourbon drinkers and industry insiders, who were spun around by subtle undernotes of the smooth, slightly sweet, amber liquor… a taste they had never quite experienced before.
Wes and Lincoln (consulting his legendary black book of notes from decades of experimentation with process, fermentation, finishing and more) had gambled on a twist: to finish the bourbon in a way that was, traditionally, reserved for scotch whiskey.
Angel’s Envy Kentucky Straight Bourbon is a small batch bourbon (8- 12 barrels produced at a time) that is aged over six years. After the correct balance of flavors and maturation is achieved, the bourbon is transferred to its final resting place, ruby port wine casks, for six months. The 60-gallon ruby port barrels, which impart a subtle, slightly sweet flavor, are made from French oak and imported directly from Portugal.
“We had immediate notoriety due to dad coming out of retirement,” said Wes.
Accolades & Awards
The initial response to the release was quite positive, the awards not far behind. Spirit Journal ranked Angel’s Envy Cask Strength as the “Best Spirit in the World” in 2013.
Wine Enthusiast Magazine, which rates wines, spirits and liquors, awarded 98 points for its first bottling. Drink Spirits had this to say: If you’re looking for an amazing bourbon with complexity, balance, and flavor, Angel’s Envy is it. Highest Recommendation”
Lincoln was instrumental in establishing the high production standards and flavor profiles that are manifest now in the legendary brand. The father-and-son team were able to work together four years before Lincoln’s passing in 2013, and in a sweet nod to the original idea that sparked the brand, Lincoln also was able to work with his grandson, Kyle Henderson, who now serves as production manager at the company.
Wes attended and graduated from Florida Institute of Technology with a degree in aeronautics. After moving around the country for various jobs and opportunities, he resettled here in 1997 with his family after accepting a position running a large division of a multinational company. His sons attended schools here, including Holy Name of Jesus Catholic School, West Shore and Melbourne Central Catholic High School.
In 2004, after a very active hurricane season which brought three devastating storms to the shores of Central Florida, Wes said he started thinking about a change. It would be five years before they headed north, to the green and blue grasses of Kentucky, to create something that never had been done before.
They moved back to Kentucky in 2009 to start the venture and raise their sons. Four of them now work directly at the distillery: Andrew as lead distiller, Kyle as production manager, and Connor and Spencer in maturation. They all are considered leaders in their field and have had the inclusive experience of learning at the feet of their father and grandfather, whose legacy lives on with each turn of the bottle. Additionally, Connor, Spencer, Andrew and Wes are all certified volunteer firefighters in Lexington, one way they work as a family to support their community.
In 2015, Wes and his wife decided to give the Space Coast another try, if only part time. Now, seasonal homeowners who divide time between a beautiful riverfront “get-away” home on the Indian River in Indialantic and the “work home” he shares with his wife and family in Louisville, Wes is a self-described “reverse snowbird” who loves the Space Coast and has used his position to help support local nonprofit organizations including Women’s Center and Club Esteem.
Award Winning Bourbon, Forward Thinking Innovation
Angel’s Envy continues to experiment with flavors in a decidedly outside-the-bottle sort of way.
Angel’s Envy Rye is finished in rum barrels, and sips both sweet and dry, with a rich, reddish amber color.
Angel’s Envy Cask Strength is a herculean spirit at 122.4 proof, with a medium-length finish and a deeper, darker amber appearance. In mid-August, the company released Angel’s Envy Kentucky Straight Bourbon, finished in Japanese Mizunara Oak Casks in very limited quantities to celebrate the brands 10th anniversary.
Angel’s Envy is available at fine liquor stores and at the CELLARS AT THE MANSION, 1218 E. New Haven Ave., where these images were shot. For more information about Angel’s Envy, visit online at angelsenvy.com.