Blue Equity investing in Angel’s Envy brand, new downtown urban-bourbon distillery


Blue Equity Chairman and Managing Director Jonathan Blue.

Back in December, Insider Louisville was tracking the weekly developments with new bourbon brand Angel’s Envy.

We were trying to figure out where they’d locate downtown and, most importantly, where the money was coming from to build an announced $10 million Angel’s Envy urban bourbon facility.

Yesterday we, got our answers:

Angel’s Envy is going into the former Vermont American building on Main Street, and Blue Equity is part of the investor group.

Blue Equity Chairman and Managing Director Jonathan Blue said his Louisville-based private equity firm is making a “significant” investment in the startup spirits company.

Blue added that his firm has been working with Angel’s Envy management for some time on the way to announcing this investment.

angel's envy hendersons

Kyle Henderson (bottling manager), Wes Henderson, COO, and Lincoln Henderson, master distiller of Angel’s Envy. Photo courtesy of Angel’s Envy.

“They have good management. Their CEO is from Chicago. They’ve done a great job of building the brand,” he said.

“The brand is on fire! It’s getting so popular you can’t get it sometimes.”

Last month, Angel Envy’s super premium “Cask Strength” was declared the world’s top spirit by “Spirits Journal,” a distilled spirits industry publication published by Paul Pacult.

Blue declined to go into specific details about the size of the investment and whether Blue Equity will take a stake in the distiller, or take a debt position, deferring to Angel’s Envy management to discuss financial details.

A news conference is scheduled for 1 p.m. today at the Vermont American building across from Slugger Field, which will be Angel Envy’s future downtown distillery and entertainment facility. Large “Angel’s Envy” signs went up on the building early on Monday afternoon.

But until yesterday, Blue’s role financial role had been under the radar.

Blue said Blue Equity executives had been in talks with Angel’s Envy management for some time.

“This is not new,” he said.  “This is something that’s been in the works for some time; something we’d been trying to get done for a long time, but these things take forever.”

Blue said “it’s no coincidence (Angel’s Envy new facility) will be a stone’s throw away from our offices.”

Blue Equity offices are in the Preston Pointe building at 333 E. Main St., one block east of the new Angel’s Envy headquarters.

“That’s makes it nice for us. Also, we like where they are on this end of Main (Street), not on West Main. We think they’ll carve out their own niche down here.”

Asked why he was entering the deal, “This is another feather in the cap for this city, for downtown revitalization.”

According to documents Angel’s Envy executives filed with the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority, the downtown urban bourbon distillery will include a column still, a bottling line, grain-handling equipment, barrel storage and a finishing area, with 17 employees to start, and the workforce topping out at 40 people.

Angel’s Envy debuted in 2010, created by former Brown-Forman master distiller Lincoln Henderson and produced in Nelson County. Now that operation will transfer to Louisville.

Creating a new bourbon brand is expensive. Investments include distilling equipment and aging warehouses, not to mention marketing.

Angel’s Envy will be the second facility likely to come on line in the near future. Heaven Hill has won the race to open Louisville’s first urban-bourbon distillery and tourist attraction.

The Bardstown-based distiller’s Evan Williams Experience is close to their grand opening, the first of at least five “artisanal” distilleries planned for downtown.

Investing in Angel’s Envy is a bit of an outlier from Blue Equity’s typical investment.

Blue Equity sold its Blue Equity Sports Television, a sports marketing company, in 2010 to Paris-based Lagardere. Last January, the firm sold the Antilles Group Ltd., a oil refining and retailing company in Jamaica, to another French company, The Rubis Group.