Exploring like an Angel
We sent our Explorer JD Dotson to Angel’s Envy in Louisville
PHOTOS & STORY BY JD DOTSON
Every day is a good day for a bourbon distillery tour in Kentucky. Angel’s Envy is a heavenly one.
The urban distillery, which is located in downtown Louisville, brings something new and wonderful to the table (or the bar, I should say).
Science was never my strong suite in school. I didn’t understand a lot of it, or didn’t find much interest in it. Angel’s Envy Distillery is like a GIANT science class come to life, and I couldn’t be more fascinated in the process.
It is amazing to me the precise percentage of corn, rye and barley mixed with yeast and science and time, going from one place to another, starting out as one thing and becoming something completely different ¬–parts separated and distilled in a giant copper tube and run through with heat and cooling – to become something else, which is then put into a specific type of barrel to sit around in and become yet again something different and wonderful.
It’s exhausting, yet completely captivating.
My wonderful tour guide met me at the retail shop to begin my tour. She had to coax me away from the stores shelves showcasing Angel’s Envy’s beautiful bottles and glassware and T-shirts. We headed up the elevator to begin our tour, and entered the massive operations room full of pipes and giant tanks and the most amazing smells wafting around your head.
Angel’s Envy Distillery tour takes you on a full bourbon-making experience, from concept through every stage of the process and the final product in the bottle.
The tour began with the story of Lincoln Henderson’s history in the bourbon industry to the family-run business of the Angel’s Envy brand, and the purchase and redevelopment of a long-vacant downtown building.
The fascinating history lesson finishes and the science class begins.
We walked the path at the top of impossibly large tanks, sounds and smells
whirring about our heads in a massive room called the Cathedral.
We indulged in the dry ingredients and the precise percentages of corn, rye
and malted barley milled and mixed into giant tanks to ferment.
My lack of understanding of how science works would like to think about
this whole process as magic.
At this stage, something magical happens to the mixture.
It became beer and worked its way through giant tanks toward the room
at the end of the great hall.
Inside was a 35-foot column copper still separating the beer into a gas and
a liquid as it ran through the heated elements. The gas was then returned to
clear liquid form and ready to be transferred to barrels.
The clear liquid was matured in charred 53-gallon, American White Oak
barrels for four to six years.
Angel’s Envy goes a step further with double-maturation for up to an
additional six months in 60 gallon port barrels from Portugal. The Angel’s Envy
Rye can spend an extra 18 to 24 months in Caribbean rum barrels. Both of
these extra processes set Angel’s Envy apart and give them their unique tastes.
The tour took us through the complex bottling section of the distillery, where
the bottles are filled by machine and each bottle is inspected for color and fill
and labeled by hand. Located within the bottling warehouse is the bottle your
own area where you can arrange to fill a specially-designed bottle yourself.
Check the website to reserve a bottle designating your own tasting experience.
Angel’s Envy currently fills 80 barrels a day, until a week after my tour when
they will go into 24-hour production and double their output.
The end of my tour took me back upstairs with a guided tasting of Angel’s
Envy paired with an Orange Chimere chocolate truffle created for Angel’s
Envy by local chocolatier, Art Eatables.
My tour was filled with so much amazing magic from my wonderful guide, the facility and my tasting, I had to end my day with the Angel’s Envy-version of an Old Fashioned, the award-winning Henderson, in the private bar adjacent to the tasting room.
Some notes to know before you go on a tour at Angel’s Envy Distiller:
Wear appropriate footwear. No heels or open toe shoes.
Pictures are allowed, but no flash photography.
Be aware that some areas are not climate controlled and could be hot in the summer months.
Tours are $20 per person and last about an hour.
Check the website or Facebook page and pre-book tours: They sell out far in advance.
Angel’s Envy Distillery
500 E. Main St.
Visit the Distillery
Monday 10am-5pm 10am-5pm
Tuesday closed 12pm-5pm
Wed-Thurs 10am-5pm 10am-5pm
Friday-Sat 10am-6pm 10am-6pm
Sunday 12:30pm-5:30pm 12:30pm-5:30pm