Owen Martin makes his Angel’s Envy debut
The 12th annual Cask Strength Bourbon from Angel’s Envy comes at a lower proof, while a more limited cask strength rye combines Sauternes and toasted oak finishes.
In September 2022, Louisville-based Angel’s Envy announced Owen Martin as its new master distiller, the first since co-founder and Bourbon legend Lincoln Henderson passed in 2013. Martin was previously the master distiller at Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey, and knew the world would be watching as he set out crafting whiskeys on a much larger scale.
“You only get one time to present your whiskeys for the first time to people,” Martin said about making his Angel’s Envy debut, noting he sometimes dreams of whiskey, and felt the pressure to make his first releases great. “I’m going to put together the best whiskey I can. But where are the narrative threads here that I can then tell a story that I want to tell with it?”
Like a television series that releases multiple episodes at once, Martin’s first Angel’s Envy creations are being released as a pair. First up is the 12th edition of Angel’s Envy Cask Strength, an annual release that offers the brand’s flagship Port-finished Bourbon at a higher proof.
“This was always going to be step one,” Martin said, noting that he spent six months tasting single barrels in preparation for the release. Given that Angel’s Envy Cask Strength has been around for more than a decade now, Martin felt responsible for meeting consumer expectations while also looking to impart his own spin on the release. As a result, this edition bears the lowest proof in the series, bottled at 59.1% ABV.
While that is still quite high for most palates, Martin said he wanted something that he could serve to his mother and be proud of, and that he doesn’t prescribe to pushing proof limits if it doesn’t benefit the whiskey.
“I’m not the type that just chases proof,” he said. “I’m more of the mindset that I don’t want to make my releases inaccessible to a large portion of the populace’s palates.”
The 2023 release of Angel’s Envy Cask Strength is priced at RRP US$230, with 22,656 bottles to be available in all 50 states starting 1 December.
Alongside Cask Strength comes Angel’s Envy Cask Strength Rye, a one-off release that was finished in a combination of Sauternes and toasted oak barrels. Martin said that if Cask Strength is him playing with existing architecture, this is him building something entirely new. It is the first cask strength rye release from the brand, which finishes its core rye expression in rum barrels.
“I wanted to subvert expectations for someone that knows our brand. And surprise them with something different,” Martin said. “To put something out unique to me, within my first year at the company was important.”
Angel’s Envy always cask finishes its whiskeys, a practice Martin was familiar with from his time studying in Scotland and making single malt at Stranahan’s. He said the toasted oak provides background so that the Sauternes doesn’t come across as too sweet.
“This one speaks to more of what I was doing traditionally, which was finding complementary finishes, letting those highlight each other, and hopefully combining them in a simple but elegant way,” he said.
Martin also used deployed marrying and re-barrelling techniques for the new releases, saying that he views finishing as just one facet of their whiskey-making capabilities. He also noted that this won’t always be a dual release every year, and that traditionally, something like the Cask Strength Rye, which is bottled at 57.2% ABV, and listed for RRP US$270 would have been considered part of the Cellar Collection. It is a smaller release, with 5,500 bottles available.
Both releases introduce a new bottle design, as Angel’s Envy drops the secondary packaging for Cask Strength, which was cased in a wooden box.
As Martin settles into this new role, he is keeping scale and leadership in mind. He’s excited about these new whiskeys and what else is to come at Angel’s Envy. “Even though I’m at a scale bigger than when I was in Colorado, it can have craft focus,” he said.