If you’re celebrating New Year’s Eve at home with friends or out on the town this year, we’ve got some adult beverage suggestions we’re betting you’ve not had.
First up, Angels Envy Cask Strength: This is a big-budget item worth the mention if you’ve had a good year financially—which means post-fiscal cliff, you’ll have a tough one next year—and have the extra coin to splurge.
And given that Pappy Van Winkle “Any Year” is harder to get than a straight answer from a politician, this is a good suggestion, if you can find it.
Several weeks ago I got a press sample of Angels Envy Cask Strength, a 123-proof bourbon blended by master distiller Lincoln Henderson and aged in port barrels.
It costs $149 per 750 ml bottle and only 600 bottles were made (also available by the drink at several restaurants). Precious stuff to be sure, but truly elegant and extraordinary.
Regarding the high price, Sam Seiller, executive vice president and managing director for Angels Envy, told me in an email that the short-run product is definitely “for the enthusiast looking for something like any other bourbon they’ve tried.” (Hint, hint: Skip this if your bourbon encounters include high balls and pinochle.) Without a doubt, she added, it’s for someone who “appreciates a handcrafted, unfiltered bourbon with complex and nuanced flavors not found in other whiskeys.”
Those are fair descriptors for this high-test, high-dollar sipper. Not sure what it is about my palate, but I like the high-proof stuff and prefer to endure the brief burn to get at the flavors and aromas lurking about. And there are plenty of both in AECS.
Its color is red-amber, which if you could imagine, is the color of liquefied bricks: a striking visual born of the bourbon’s extended rest in purple walled port barrels.
Aroma is terrific: first a whiff of mash then a blush of Madeira; nutty and rich. Usual suspects such as vanilla and spice show up once it gets a breather in the glass.
Taste is truly outstanding: the brief initial burn gives way to back notes of citrus and cinnamon, followed by a wash of a mature and complex bourbon. Finish is elegant and silky, lingering delicately and briefly, one that encourages another sip that trots out flavors of oak and mash.
Why port barrels? Seiller’s answer was press-release vague, but made the point: it makes for an exceptionally smooth result.
Well, cool, we get that, but the same result can occur with other barrels. I’ll hazard a guess that any comingling with the vestiges of port rounds the typically jagged edges of barrel-strength booze and sneaks in some fruity characteristics in the process.
Well, at least that’s what I taste.
Still, Angels Envy’s 86 proof bourbon also rests in port barrels, but its golden hue hints that time is brief.
Why the high proof, fully 37 points above the garden variety 86 (18 percent higher alcohol content)?
Again, a vague answer from Seiller: “Lincoln came out of retirement to create the world’s finest bourbon on his own terms and to enjoy the art of making whiskey,” she wrote. “He makes decisions based on the specific taste profile he wants to achieve.”
I guess that means Lincoln like’s ‘em hot.
Want to get some? Click here to review the long list of stores in Louisville and elsewhere selling it.
Against the Grain Brewery and Smokehouse continues its Chef Collaboration Series with its new release, BierePoix.
Reflecting ATG’s fondness for puns, the new brew’s name comes from a mashup of two French terms:
The first is biere de garde, which roughly translated means “beer for keeping,” since, historically it was brewed in colder months to better manage fermentation made risky in hotter weather. Such beers have an ABV of 6 percent or higher (this one is 6.8 percent) and are typically copper colored.
The second term is mirepoix, or “mixed cut,” refers to diced onion, celery and carrot used as the base for many sauces and soups in French cuisine.
Those ingredients, as well as sorghum, coriander and orange peel were used in BierePoix at the suggestion of Andy Myers, chef at Anchorage Café, a well-regarded brekkie and lunch spot in 1 Percent Land.
From the first sip, the vegetable component is immediately evident, delivering what masquerades as a saison kissed by vegetable broth. (Could this be the first beer I’ve had bearing the flavor umami?) As you can imagine, this brew is ideally paired with light foods, though still really good for sipping alone.
Since it’s a fairly strong beer, it’s sold in half imperial pints. Yet it didn’t weigh heavily on my palate or in my stomach. Its texture is crisp and forthcoming without being forceful; simple, predictable and enjoyable.
Want to bring a party gift to impress? Grab two or three growlers and insist the canned light beer lovers hanging around the chip bowl experiment with something clever.
** NOTEWORTHY: You can get Angels Envy Cask Strength over the bar at Against the Grain. Have some of it neat while you’re filling your growlers with BierePoix and see if I’m not right about how good it is.