By Father John Rayls
I really don’t like handing out an “A+” to anything or anyone. Seriously, does it mean perfection or that it can never be bested in anyway? I don’t know the
answer to that question, but I do know this is the very best rye I’ve ever tasted. Sazerac and their distillery, Buffalo Trace, have done it again. They not only knocked the ball out of the park, they changed the game forever. Picture one of the final scenes in the Robert Redford movie, The Natural, as the hero knocks the final pitch above the upper deck into the lights as the thousands of sparks drift to the ground and he wins the game, saves the manager and triumphs over evil. This rye is that good. Of course, even nominal whiskey drinkers have heard of Buffalo Trace Distillery and all of the myriad of awards that were earned and well deserved. This includes a Distillery of the Year award for their work in 2015.
Thomas H Handy Sazerac Straight Rye Whiskey is a member of the Antique Collection from Buffalo Trace. The Straight Rye Whiskey designation is very similar to the Straight Bourbon Whiskey label. It requires a minimum 51% rye (corn for bourbon), distillation at no higher than 160 proof, no additional spirits added, barreling at no higher than 125 proof in new oak and aged a minimum of 2 years. This particular version comes out of the barrel straight into the bottle with no water added. That means it’s uncut, but it’s also unfiltered. It’s approximately 6.5 years old, bottled at 126.2 proof and it’s ready to party!
Thomas H Handy Sazerac Straight Rye Whiskey is beautiful to behold. It’s color is a mix of dark copper and dark brass highlights. However, I had a difficult time leaving it in the glass long enough to observe it really well. The legs are some of the longest and slowest I’ve ever seen. After the initial swirl, I waited and waited to see the legs appear near the top and drain to the bottom. They appeared shy and reluctant and yet you knew they would eventually make a showing. You won’t be disappointed. The nose is soft, but not shy, and delicious. It’s well balanced and only gives a very slight burn when inhaled deeply. There are notes of leather, oak, vanilla and a lushness that’s hard to describe. The aromas are very inviting.
The flavor is of toffee, cinnamon and cloves. The fantastic viscosity takes the mouth experience to a very different level. It’s not thick and yet there is a magnificent syrupy mouth-feel. The whole mouth is coated as the rye begins its flavor explosion. The front and middle of the tongue experiences some steady, but light activity. The back of the tongue and the back roof of the mouth gets the majority of the action. The finish is long and deliriously enjoyable. Don’t rush this part of the experience. It fades with notes of cinnamon that are strong, but not overpowering.
Good luck finding any Thomas H Handy sitting around on the shelves of your local retailer. However, the most recent release should soon be available (Fall 2016) until it sells out. I had just ordered a bottle from my whiskey guy before receiving this sample and will pay just under $90.00. If you miss out on this limited offering, you will find it being offered for upwards of $400.00 through “alternative” whiskey markets. Don’t wait on this one. Rush to your dealer and ask to be put on the list. You can thank me later.