Reserve 101 has a lot going for it.
A sweet downtown location across from House of Blues and a stone’s throw from the Toyota Center. A reputation for being a late-night haunt of touring musicians and athletes. (Regulars say the St. Louis Cardinals jersey-ripping celebratory routine was born at the bar.) More than 280 bottles of whiskey and a seasoned staff eager to share the stories behind each. A lengthy (2-6 p.m.) happy hour with half-priced signature martinis and wines by the glass.
The one thing it doesn’t boast is its own signature whiskey.
Now that’s about to change. 29-95 was invited to witness a whiskey blend in-the-making last month. It was chill event attended by Reserve 101 owner Mike Raymond, Louisville Distilling Co.’s Ryan Forsyth, marketing pro Katy Mayell and this bourbon-challenged reporter.
Louisville Distilling Co. is the maker of Angel’s Envy, a small batch, high-end whiskey developed by master distiller Lincoln Henderson. A member of the Bourbon Hall of Fame, Henderson, now in his 70s, developed well-respected whiskeys such as Gentleman Jack and Woodford Reserve.
The name Angel’s Envy is derived from the phrase “angel’s share,” which refers to the amount of whiskey lost to evaporation during the aging process. Angel’s Envy, which is available in 16 states and the District of Columbia, is offering a handful of its best customers the opportunity to play distiller and create a signature blend.
Forsyth brought the blending kit, which included tasting glasses, a tall beaker and three 6-plus ounce bottles of handcrafted Angel’s Envy Bourbon Whiskey. The bottles represented three batches of full proof, oak barrel-aged whiskey, each with a distinct nose, taste and finish.
“I’m trying not to have any expectations,” Raymond said, as Forsyth poured a small amount of each batch into three waiting glasses.
Raymond held the first glass, which contained batch A, the least aged whiskey of the three. He swirled the amber colored liquor around in the glass, then sniffed it.
“What do you smell?” Forsyth asked.
This neophyte whiskey drinker just smelled strong spirits. The distiller’s tasting notes told me it was a bit of green apple, green banana, oak and cinnamon.
Raymond took a slow sip and the discussion turned to the finish and mouth feel. Then Raymond put a couple of drops of water in the glass and took another sip.
“(Batch A) was nice till it was touched by water. Then it faded,” Raymond said.
The tasting process then was repeated for batches B and C.
“This is where it gets tricky,” Raymond said, facing the blending process.
The next round of tastings featured blends of the three bottles. Twenty percent of this, 35 percent of that ... and plenty of discussion.
The point of the four-hour exercise: to find a blend that best reflects Reserve 101 and its owner. In the end, Reserve 101’s blend was 60 percent batch A, 10 percent batch B and 30 percent of the most aged, batch C.
So what does the Reserve 101 Angel’s Envy blend taste like?
You can find out later this month, when the first case is delivered. Raymond plans a roll-out party but details are still to come. Be among the first to know by signing up for Reserve 101’s newsletter at reserve101.com or “liking” the bar on Facebook.
Reserve 101: 1201 Caroline, 713-655-7101