ANGEL’S ENVY uses a very traditional mash bill: 72% corn, 18% rye and 10% malted barley. But just how old is that tradition? While bourbon has a rich and colorful history (some of which is actually true), its gradual evolution has been considerably different than what many people claim today. Bourbon’s mash bill is less rooted in tradition than it is in good old American pragmatism.
The early American distillers along the east coast typically used rye in their whiskeys—because it was plentiful and cheap. As settlers moved west and rye became more scarce, distillers began using a lot of different things for their mash. They weren’t as worried about artisanal craftsmanship as they were with producing cheap, strong hooch. Fortunately for all of us, when distillers reached Kentucky, where corn was both cheap and abundant, the resulting whiskey had the slightly sweeter grain taste that we’ve come to love about bourbon. We’re not saying that there aren’t any long-lost family recipes floating around out there, we’d just suggest that maybe great-great-grandpa wouldn’t have been quite as particular about what went into his mash.
In 1909, President Taft decreed in his “Decision on Whisky” that bourbon should be made from a majority of corn, and in 1964, Congress officially recognized bourbon as a “distinctive product of the United States.” One of the requirements for a whiskey to be designated as bourbon was that its mash bill must be at least 51% corn. While corn has been the official choice since then, it’s ALWAYS been the logical choice for Kentucky based distillers. So why did we choose our particular mash bill? Master Distiller Lincoln Henderson believed that our very traditional mash bill would provide the perfect balance for the complex flavors created by our port wine finishing process. As always, he was right.