An incredible new bourbon finished in rare Japanese oak casks may be heresy to some hardcore bourbon drinkers, but this new Angel’s Envy Mizunara release is worth reexamining your beliefs on finished bourbon.
In the 10 years since the founding of Angel’s Envy, the bourbon brand has taken a lot of heat for its finishes. Bourbon drinkers are notoriously polarized on whether a finished bourbon can even be called bourbon, so when Angel’s Envy hit the market with their port finish in 2010, they had a long way to go to get people on board.
Now a decade later, they’ve released yet another incredible bottle.
Angel’s Envy Mizunara is a blend of 4 and 9-year-old bourbons, which were married before being finished in Mizunara barrels for two years. The two-year finish is a bit unusual by Kentucky standards—six months is the average—but Mizunara isn’t a typical wood.
Japanese Mizunara oak trees are felled for barrel making at around 200 years old: nearly double the age of American oak. The wood is notoriously difficult to cooper with, but it’s worth the payout, for the unique depth and complexity of flavor it can impart. The catch is that, because the wood is older, it also takes longer for the whiskey to strip out those flavoring compounds.
In other words, this was an unnecessarily difficult—and expensive—whiskey to make.
So why did they go to the trouble? Family.
Wes Henderson, Angel’s Envy Co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer, said it was important to do something to honor his father.
“We chose this release for the tenth anniversary because my dad, having taken on several consulting roles in Japan during his career, always had a deep appreciation for the country and its distilling community. This release, finished in Mizunara casks made from this rare, 200-year-old wood, felt fitting for such a special milestone for Angel’s Envy.”
But how does it taste?
This bourbon starts off typically for the Angel’s Envy mashbill, showing initial corn sweetness and hints of orange on the nose. The sweetness is reflected initially on the palate, showing creamy vanilla and caramel. But then things take a hard pivot.
Rye spice explodes in tingly tendrils, and are immediately followed by a burst of potent sandalwood, which rounds out the rye spice into an earthy, bold peak.
As the finish begins, the whiskey takes a decidedly biscuity turn, showing dark chocolate sweetness and graham flower toastiness along with a long, drying finish. As whiskey goes, Angel’s Envy Mizunara is nuanced, well-honed, and commanding.
It makes total sense then that only 1,200 bottles were filled of this one-off liquid, and that the price tag would be around $350, plus whatever upsell you’ll have to deal with to get your hands on a bottle.
Angel’s Envy Mizunara is on sale now.
Clay Whittaker is a Contributing Editor at Maxim.com. His work has appeared in Cigar Aficionado, Playboy, Esquire, Forbes, Town and Country, and elsewhere. You can subscribe to his newsletter here, and follow him on Instagram here.