|Bottle shots being mounted on the Vermont American building in June of 2013.|
It was announced today that Bacardi has acquired Angel's Envy, both the brand and the company behind it, which will continue to operate as independently of Bacardi as they can get away with. (That's not how the press release put it.)
Angel's Envy port-finished bourbon is distilled and aged by one or more undisclosed Kentucky distilleries. After aging, Angel's Envy takes possession of the whiskey and finishes it in port barrels. Their other product, Angel's Envy rye, is distilled and aged by MGP of Indiana, and finished by Angel's Envy in rum barrels.
The face of Angel's Envy, the Henderson family, talked from the beginning about having their own distillery. The Angel's Envy Distillery was announced in June 2013. Although that event was billed as a 'groundbreaking,' with the governor tossing the first dirt, Angel's Envy didn't actually own the property until a year later. The announcement said the distillery and visitors center would be operating by 2014, but progress was glacial. It resumed in earnest three months ago, according to production manager Kyle Henderson. The site is in downtown Louisville, across Main Street from Louisville Slugger Field, in what used to be a factory for Vermont American.
The Angel's Envy Distillery will be much larger than the distilleries at the Evan Williams Experience (open since 2013), Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse (under construction), and Michter's (under construction). It will be comparable to the new Old Forester Distillery Brown-Forman is building. All are on Main Street except Jim Beam, which is a few blocks south. Also under construction south of Louisville is a small distillery at Diageo's Stitzel-Weller Distillery. Michter's is about to start producing at its new, large distillery south of Louisville, which is about the same size as the ones Angel's Envy and Old Forester have planned.
The sale to Bacardi has been rumored for about two years. It has been reported that at least one of Angel's Envy's behind-the-scenes investors is a former high Bacardi executive. Another is the former CEO of Cruzan International. Bacardi has done several joint ventures over the years with Brown-Forman, the former employer of Angel's Envy's founder, the late Lincoln Henderson.
They know where Louisville is.
With every whiskey distillery in the United States running at or near full capacity, distilleries that do contract production for non-distiller producers (NDPs) like Angel's Envy are either cutting back or ending those relationships altogether in favor of house brands. This makes it hard for NDPs to grow, which is more-or-less forcing them to build distilleries.
The Angel's Envy brand has been very successful and shown a lot of promise. Except for a tendency to over-promise, the company is run very professionally. This isn't really a micro-distillery story but it's another example of the many possibilities in this new world of bourbon.