Thomas H. Handy is the younger (6 yo) and higher strength rye released annually in Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection. As with last night’s Sazerac 18, this is from the 2011 release and was split with a couple of friends (they got half and the bottle, I got my half in a mason jar). Let’s get right to it:
Thomas H. Handy, 2011 Release (64.3%; Buffalo Trace Antique Collection; from a reference sample saved from my own bottle)
Nose: Somewhat closed at first (not surprising, given the strength). Opens up a little with time though: strong notes of cinnamon, pine resin, some mint and also some caramel and dusty wood. Increasingly sweet as well–brown sugar and also some sort of musky fruit. With water the pine/mint note gets pushed back and there’s some nice toffee and orangey notes. However, the wood also gets a little more astringent.
Palate: Very piney and minty indeed. Not as hot as the 64.3% abv might lead one to expect (then again this was decanted into a 6 oz bottle after the mason jar my share was in got below the 1/2 way mark and has thus probably got a lot of air along the way). Some woody bite and some cinnamony sweetness on the second sip, but it definitely needs water. The wood gets pushed back with water and it gets quite a bit sweeter. Still quite spicy though (still the cinnamon), and then there’s that cold tea note that I can’t seem to not find in ryes. A little hint of gingerbread. Gets more woody with time.
Finish: Long’ish. Mostly spicy with some sweetness and then some bitterness at the very end.
Comments: Quite nice but a little too brash and a little too much wood spice and cinnamon for me on the palate; I prefer the nose. And, on the whole, I quite prefer the mellower Sazerac 18 to this Handy.
Rating: 86 points.