February 6, 2015 – A class-action lawsuit against Louisville Distilling Co., the producer of Angel’s Envy whiskies, has been moved to Federal District Court in Chicago. The suit accusing Louisville Distilling of misleading consumers about the origin of its Angel’s Envy Rye was originally filed last October in Cook County Circuit Court by plaintiffs Mario Aliano and Due Fratelli, Inc. However, lawyers for Louisville Distilling successfully challenged the local court’s jurisdiction over the case under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005. The law gives federal courts jurisdiction over class-action lawsuits seeking more than $5 million in damages or when fewer than two-thirds of the proposed class of plaintiffs live in the same state as the defendant.

According to Legal Newsline, the plaintiffs claim Louisville Distilling lied about the source of Angel’s Envy Rye by claiming that it was a “small-batch” whiskey made by the late Lincoln Henderson in Bardstown, Kentucky, when it actually comes from the MGP-I distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana using the same recipe as other Rye whiskies made there. The lawsuit is similar to one filed in Chicago last September against the makers of Iowa’s Templeton Rye, and that lawsuit has also been moved to Federal Court.

In a statement provided Friday to WhiskyCast, Marc Bushala, the CEO of Louisville Distilling’s parent company Angel’s Share Brands LLC, said the company will fight a lawsuit that he claims lacks merit.

“We do not claim to distill our rye- we claim to barrel finish our rye in Caribbean rum casks in very small quantities.  Our final product is unique and ‘small batch’ by anyone’s definition.”   Indeed, the label on the bottle clearly states: “This rare rye starts like every other, but it’s then finished in vintage casks…” 

The statement acknowledged the origin of the Rye whiskey as MGP-I, noting that Lincoln Henderson was able to secure a supply of 6-year-old Rye from the distillery before the recent boom in demand for Rye whiskey. There is no definition under US Federal regulations for “small-batch” whiskies, and the definition of the term is generally left to the producer of a whiskey brand. Louisville Distilling has sourced all of the whiskey used in its Angel’s Envy expressions from other distillers, and is building a new distillery of its own in downtown Louisville. Lincoln Henderson passed away in September of 2013. His son Wes Henderson and grandson Kyle Henderson are continuing to produce Angel’s Envy to Lincoln Henderson’s specifications.

The case was re-filed in the US District Court for Northern Illinois on January 27. No date has been set for a hearing in the case.

Editor’s note: The complete text of the Angel’s Envy statement is available here

Links: Angel’s Envy