Angels Envy Rye

Two years ago, something amazing happened in the bourbon category: Angel's Envy. It was ushered into the crowded whiskey market by Lincoln Henderson. Over the course of 40 years, he developed now popular brands such as Woodford Reserve and Jack Daniel's Gentleman Jack, earning a reliable name for himself – and 'Malt Advocate's' Lifetime Achievement Award – before retiring in 2004. He reemerged in 2011 with Angel's Envy, a super premium bourbon with a spicy-sweet nose, complex full flavor, and rich, velvety finish resulting from a rest in port wine barrels before bottling.

He's at it again, with similar, brilliant success. Angel's Envy Rye is something special. As you would expect from a rye, it's a bit more biting and bold than the original. On the nose, there's rich vanilla and spice, evoking a very expensive dessert. On the tongue, it's just about the smoothest rye we've sipped, despite the fact that it's bottled at 100 proof. It has a high rye content (95 percent, well above the required 51 percent), and like Angel's Envy bourbon, it has a special finish: up to 18 months' rest in Caribbean rum casks that were previously used to age French cognac.

This isn't something to mix into your Manhattan (especially not at this price). We get the feeling that Angel's Envy Rye was designed for the same breed of sipping-whiskey nerds who fell for Angel's Envy bourbon. Plus, it's a rarity: Just 2,500 cases exist for now. [$88, angelsenvy.com]