I treated myself to an "Inspiration Field Trip" last month: a visit to Angel's Envy Distillery, Louisville's brand new bourbon distillery. Located across the street from Louisville Slugger Field, Angel's Envy's home base used to be an elevator factory before it was abandoned years ago. But no more. Last November the stunning brick complex opened for business. Founded by Master Distiller Lincoln Henderson, Angel's Envy is owned by Louisville Distilling Company, a subsidiary of Bacardi Limited.
If you're lucky enough to get Tom Gamble as your host, you know you're going to have fun. I really lucked out with a triple whammy....the other two guests on our tour were representatives from a nearby distillery who wanted a peek (like me) into the inner workings of this amazing facility. What fun to listen to the three of them swap stories about making, tasting, and sharing information about bourbon.
I won't attempt to describe the details of making bourbon here. Too complicated and not the purpose of this chat with you today. The best way to learn is to plunk down $15 and take the tour. (And don't forget to bring some cash to tip your host!) Yet I do want to share with you the images that have inspired me to start designing new work.
When you head to the mezzanine level where the fermentation vats live, the sweet scent of baking bread smacks you in the face. It's not bread that's baking; it's the yeast-filled mash bubbling away in giant mash tubs. Tom will let you taste the mash and even let you look inside one of the tubs....just please don't drop your cell phone inside. It's been done.
The Column Still sits at the far end of the mezzanine like a Queen on her throne. In my opinion, the glowing copper column is an honest-to-goodness "Thing Of Beauty". Standing next to the Column Still is a container called the Spirit Safe. Back in the day, its purpose was to keep a lock on the bourbon -- and away from thirsty distillery workers -- before the spirit could be put into barrels. It has to do with the history of bourbon taxation. Today, however, the Spirit Safe serves the purpose of honoring tradition and it gives metal workers and copper smiths an opportunity to create a cool piece of sculpture. The "bottle" on top of the Spirit Safe at Angel's Envy is modeled after their own bottle design. The stopper on the bottle is actually a piece of a Louisville Slugger bat provided by Louisville Slugger Field. A nice neighborly thing to do!
All of these images are working their way into new designs. I'm excited about piecing curved lines using the same single-foundation template process that I use with my diamonds. I'm excited, too, about painting fabric to convey that mesmerizing glow of the copper still. Can you imagine playing with all those paint colors? Copper, Golden Yellow, Ocher, Salmon, Burnt Umber, Magenta, Fuchsia all blending together...
The last stop on the tour is the Tasting Room. Yes, it was 11:00 AM on Monday morning. And, yes, we sampled the goods: the signature Bourbon finished in Port barrels. They also have a Rye finished in Rum casks. That's one of the defining characteristics of Angel's Envy, the time the bourbon is finished in the port or rum casks. Amazing!
When you're looking for a wonderful place to spend an hour on a chilly Winter day, make your online reservation and head down to Angel's Envy Distillery (500 E. Main Street, Louisville, KY 40202). Lift a glass for me!