women in whiskey

Covering both the science of distilling and the history of women in whiskey is less like a boring lesson and more like a great conversation over whiskey.
 

Slangevar!

September 2020

The Whiskey Guardian: Grace (Bennett) Dickash

It’s National Bourbon Heritage Month! 

 

In honor of this “distinctive product of the United States”, for this month’s Women in Whiskey, I’m excited to introduce you to a friend: Grace Dickash (née Bennett), Lead Whiskey Guardian of Angel’s Envy Kentucky Straight Bourbon.

Bright Lights and Dram Dreams

An Ohio native, Grace pursued a BFA in Musical Theater at Kent State University, dreaming of the bright lights on Broadway. Her only experience with bourbon was the occasional Manhattan, and a career in the bourbon whiskey industry wasn’t even a thought. 

 

Meanwhile, 300 miles away as she “graced” stages in the Midwest, Resolution 294 was introduced by Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky, declaring September National Bourbon Heritage Month, and passed unanimously (2007). According to DISCUS, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, the revenue from high-end bourbons grew from $450 million to over $500 million, some 2.2 million cases. 

 

Grace graduated and left for New York to follow her Big City dreams, initially working as a server in Times Square. Then, a good friend asked Grace if she wanted to be part of a whiskey education company, Whersky. Their mission? Bringing whiskey enjoyment and education to people of all backgrounds. As her whiskey knowledge grew and she learned to make cocktails, Grace hosted and led whiskey classes from beginner to advanced, whiskey tastings, and social events.

 

One of her favorite whiskey socials was “Heaven in a Bottle” held at a perfume boutique in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan in collaboration with Angel’s Envy. Angel's Envy Bourbon cocktails were paired with various scents. The event featured a tasting class and custom made Angel’s Envy Bourbon Cake Balls.

 

Impressed with her knowledge and ability to both educate and entertain people about whiskey, Angel’s Envy approached Grace to work with them as a Whiskey Guardian. Angel’s Envy Whiskey Guardians are bartenders chosen for their talent, knowledge, and involvement in their local hospitality community to introduce and educate people on Angel’s Envy bourbon and its history.  

There are currently over 50 guardians throughout the United States, as well as in Singapore and Sydney. 

In 2018, Angel’s Envy launched the 500 Main Club  for whiskey lovers to interact with the brand both in-person and virtually. Membership is free; perks include announcements of new releases, private local event invitations, access to behind-the-scenes videos and Q&As with the Guardians. 

The name refers to their Distillery address in Kentucky. It is the first fully functioning distillery in downtown Louisville, and the 10th distillery to be added as a member of The Kentucky Bourbon Trail ® .

 

Sadly, before its official opening, Co-Founder, Bourbon Legend, and Master Distiller Lincoln Henderson passed. His son and Co-Founder, Wes Henderson, is the Chief Innovation Officer. In true family oriented fashion, he works with his sons: Kyle (Production Manager), Andrew (Lead Distillery Operator), Connor and Spencer (the last two both working in production).

Angel’s Envy prides itself on being a family run operation*, and Grace cited the closeness and community minded culture as one of the reasons she was excited to work for Angel’s Envy. (It should be noted that Bacardi acquired Angel’s Envy in 2015, having been a minority investor since 2010, citing Lincoln Henderson’s involvement and as part of the acquisition agreed to have Angel’s Envy operate as an independent company.) 

The Legacy of Lincoln Henderson

Lincoln Henderson began pre-med at University of Louisville and, after realizing he didn’t want to be a doctor, graduated with a chemistry degree that he put to use at Brown-Forman, moving from Grain Chemist to Distillery Manager to Manager of Sensory Evaluation. He developed Early Times and Gentleman Jack Whiskey and was then promoted to Director of Whiskey Development and developed Woodford Reserve. He was one of the inaugural members of the Bourbon Hall of Fame and earned the Whisky Advocate’s Lifetime Achievement Award before retiring from Brown-Forman. 

 

Lincoln came out of retirement to work with his son, Wes, to create his masterpiece: a small-batch, handcrafted bourbon he called “Angel’s Envy”, a tongue-in-cheek reference to the whiskey term “angel’s share”, i.e. the percentage of whiskey lost in the barrel due to evaporation.  

 

Lincoln also consulted with the Japanese distillery community, serving as the U.S. Spokesman for Suntory International. In homage to this, Angel’s Envy released the first of their Founder’s Collection: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Finished in Japanese Mizunara Oak Casks. To learn more about this limited run expression, read our feature in the August 14th edition of our Barrel Report.)

“I guess looking back it was better to be a famous distiller than a mediocre doctor.”

“Where Other Bourbons Stop, Angel’s Envy Finishes”

Aside from the joy of being part of the Angel’s Envy family, Grace stated that she enjoys “Bourbon 101” conversations with people of all levels of enthusiasts that may not be aware of the following legal definitions of Bourbon.

 

Bourbon Cheat Sheet 

“Bourbon” must be

  • Produced ANYWHERE in the United States, their territories, and the District of Columbia according to the TTB 

  • Mashbill made from a minimum of 51% corn, along with a combination of other grains such as rye, wheat, and malted barley

  • Distilled at no higher than 80% ABV (160 proof)

  • Aged in new, charred oak containers (does not have to be a barrel) at no more than 125 proof; no minimum age requirement is specified

 

“Straight Bourbon” must meet all the minimum requirements of “Bourbon” and additionally

  • Aged in new, charred oak containers 

  • May include mixtures of two or more straight bourbon whiskeys, provided all of the whiskeys are produced in the same state

  • Must have an age statement on the label if it’s aged less than 4 years

 

“Kentucky Straight Bourbon” must meet all the minimum requirements of “Straight Bourbon” and 

  • Distilled and aged for at least 1 year in Kentucky.

 

Bonus Whiskey Geek trivia: People often erroneously quote the first piece of legislation defining bourbon as declaring it “American’s Native Spirit”. In reality, this 1964 Resolution simply defines it as a “distinctive product” of the United States, with one of its goals being trade protection similar to that of Scotch whisky.

 

Having met all of the requirements above, Angel’s Envy goes a step further with its innovative finishes.

 

Angel’s Envy is typically aged between 4 to 6 years in new, charred 53-gallon American white oak barrels. And while there is no legal definition of “Small Batch”, their site indicates that their blend usually comes from 8 to 10 barrels. 

There are three main expressions: Port Finish, Rye Rum Finish, and Cask Strength.

Port Finish

  • Mashbill: 72% Corn, 18% Rye, 10% Malted Barley

  • 43.3% ABV (86.6 Proof)

  • Typically aged up to 6 years in new charred American white oak casks 

  • Finish: Ruby Port Wine Casks (4-6 months) - 60 gallon made from French Oak and imported directly from Portugal

 

Rum Finish

  • Mashbill: 95% Rye, 5% Malted Barley

  • 43.2% ABV (86.4 Proof)

  • Typically aged up to 6 years in new charred American white oak casks 

  • Finish: Caribbean rum casks (Up to 18 months)

 

Cask Strength

  • Mashbill: 72% Corn, 18% Rye, 10% Malted Barley

  • 61.2% ABV (122.4 Proof)

  • Typically aged up to 6 years in new charred American white oak casks 

  • Finish: Ruby Port Wine Casks (4-6 months) - 60 gallon made from French Oak and imported directly from Portugal

 

Additional recent limited run Expressions have also included the Oloroso Sherry Casks (2019; 50% ABV or 100 Proof; 3,600 bottles), and 10 year Tawny Port Casks (2020; 55.8% ABV or 111.6 Proof;  5,400 bottles).

2020 and Beyond

Due to COVID, the Angel’s Envy distillery has been closed to the public since March, but production has continued to maintain a safe work environment that includes protocols such as spreading out shifts to minimize production workers on-site to help keep everyone safe.

 

Grace, herself, continues to offer virtual learning and online cocktail classes. One of her favorite cocktails is the New York Sour.

Grace’s New York Sour

Tools:

Jigger

Shaker

Strainer 

Paring knife

Ice (for shaker)

Coupe Glass 

Ingredients:

2 oz Angel's Envy

1 oz Lemon Juice

¾ oz Simple syrup

¾ oz Ruby Port 

Lemon, for garnish

Combine all ingredients in your shaker over ice and shake until chilled (20-30 seconds). Strain into coupe glass and garnish with a pre-cut lemon slice or twist

 

For a traditional New York Sour (using the Port for a float).

Combine the lemon juice, simple syrup, and whiskey in your shaker over ice and shake until chilled. Strain into coupe glass. Then place a spoon just over the surface of the drink, bottom facing up. Gently pour the Port from the jigger over the back of the spoon, creating a float. 

 

If you decide to try out this cocktail or simply enjoy it neat, remember to post a photo on your social media account with #toastthetrees. For every photo tagged in the month of September, Angel’s Envy will plant a tree.

 

I hope you enjoyed this month’s edition of Women in Whiskey! 

 

Join the whisk(e)y network next month, when we chat with Victoria Eady Butler of Uncle Nearest!

Subscribe to our publications - our weekly newsletter and our monthly magazine!

©2020 Whiskey Bourbon Scotch Enthusiasts, LLC.

All rights reserved