Bourbon Industry

Angel's Envy bourbon master distiller Lincoln Henderson dies

Kentucky bourbon legend Lincoln Henderson, patriarch of the family behind Angel's Envy, died Tuesday night in Lexington at age 75.

Mr. Henderson pioneered premium bourbon and whiskeys, first at Brown-Forman and later, in retirement, with his own label.

"I lost my dad and best friend today, but I am blessed and grateful that together we created a brand that we're both incredibly proud of," Wes Henderson, chief operating officer of Angel's Envy, said in a statement from the company. "We will proudly carry on his legacy and keep his memory alive."

Lincoln Henderson was an inaugural member of the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame and was awarded a lifetime achievement award from Malt Advocate magazine, now known as Whisky Advocate.

He "began serious study of bourbon" as an undergraduate in Oklahoma, according to the company. He earned a degree in chemistry from the University of Louisville and a master's degree in business administration from Webster University in Missouri.

Mr. Henderson helped develop brands including Woodford Reserve, Jack Daniel's Gentleman Jack, and Jack Daniel's Single Barrel.

"Lincoln was a titan of the Kentucky bourbon industry, having tasted more than 430,000 barrels of Brown-Forman's bourbons to determine when the whiskey was ready to be bottled," said Phil Lynch, Brown-Forman vice president and director of corporate communications. "Lincoln was a true gentleman who was great to work with — and to share a drink with."

Frank Coleman, senior vice president for public affairs for the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, said in a statement: Mr. Henderson "was an icon in the bourbon industry and contributed mightily to its revival in the U.S. and around the globe as master distiller at Brown-Forman. He was also a key player in the launch of the George Washington Distillery reconstruction project for the entire industry. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Wes and his entire family, who are carrying on Lincoln's legacy as an innovator and trend setter."

In 2006, having retiring from Brown-Forman two years earlier, Mr. Henderson joined his son and grandson Kyle in experimenting with bourbon finished in barrels previously used for sherry, rum, tequila, brandy and port.

The result was Angel's Envy, which he considered "the culmination of his storied career." His bourbon and rye finished in hand-selected port and sherry casks have become some of the most popular and fastest-growing craft spirits. Angel's Envy recently announced plans to build a distillery of its own on Main Street in Louisville.

"We often refer to Lincoln as a malcontent. Professionally, that's true," Angel's Envy posted on Facebook. "He was a restless creator. Personally however, you would be hard pressed to find a happier, more gracious man. We will remember his warmth, his humor, and above all, his kindness. We treasure having had the opportunity to work with him on his last great endeavor."

Funeral arrangements were pending.