How Angel's Envy Made History For The City Of Louisville

The Kentucky bourbon boom — 95% of the iconic American spirit is made in the Bluegrass State — has been going strong for nearly two decades now. In fact, bourbon production has increased by 360% since 2000 to keep pace with surging demand (via Distillery Trail). Bourbon's renaissance has been particularly evident in Louisville, Kentucky's largest city. During the latter half of the 19th century, the city's aptly named Whiskey Row along Main Street was a haven for bourbon makers like Brown-Forman and the Greenbrier and Old Kentucky Distilleries. But Prohibition a century ago effectively evicted Whiskey Row's most famous tenants, leaving behind some notable examples of the Chicago and Revivalist architectural styles — contributing factors when Whiskey Row was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2010 — but no actual bourbon production.

It has only been during the last decade or so, in the midst of bourbon's booming popularity, that distilling has finally returned writ large to the city's scenic downtown area that borders the Ohio River. Since Louisville's Urban Bourbon Trail debuted in 2008, no less than 10 distilleries have set up shop in the city, along with new bourbon themed bars, restaurants, and the Hotel Distil. Angel's Envy is a particularly notable example, however, thanks to one historic factor.

A significant distillery milestone in downtown Louisville

Although Angel's Envy began building its distillery in 2013, work wasn't completed until 2016. Thus it wasn't the first new distillery operation in downtown Louisville since the halcyon days of Whiskey Row. The Evans Williams Bourbon Experience, for example, premiered in 2013 on Main Street, complete with a micro-distillery onsite. But Angel's Envy is historic in the sense that it's the first large-scale distillery to resume bourbon making in the city's urban center. In fact, less than a decade after opening in Louisville, Angel's Envy has already put the finishing touches on a massive renovation, increasing its East Main Street digs by 13,000 square feet and doubling visitor capacity in the bargain. Following the completion of the expansion last summer, the distillery hit another milestone with the announcement of its 11th annual release of cask strength Kentucky bourbon finished in port wine barrels.

Angel's Envy, of course, specializes in finished whiskeys. The brand, which was started in 2010 by father and son distillers Lincoln and Wes Henderson, and is owned by Bacardi, follows legal requirements by aging its bourbon in new oak barrels for a minimum of two years. Primary barrel aging of Angel's Envy bourbon actually takes four to six years, with up to six months of secondary finishing occurring in port casks. The practice is traditionally more common in Scotland, but based on the results, it has also found a home in downtown Louisville.