Thomas H. Handy, 2011 Release

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.
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Sazerac 18, 2011 Release

This Sazerac 18 from the 2011 release of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection may be the oldest rye I’ve tasted, but then again it may not; there are rumours that the Van Winkle Rye 13 may in fact be a lot older than 13. But this is certainly the oldest rye I’ve tasted by stated age. Why the American whiskey business can’t be more transparent, I don’t know. Anyway, I managed to get my hands on the entire BTAC release for 2011 when I was first trying to develop a sense of bourbon–back then it was possible to actually find and buy them all. I split the collection 50/50 with my friends Jessica and Nate–they kept the bottles, I took my half in mason jars because I’m hillbilly that way.

Last year I made an attempt to score some of the BTAC and failed. This year I don’t think I’m going to try very hard. It’s not that I don’t think the whiskeys are worth it; I think they are–despite the price increases they still present very good price/quality ratios compared to Scotch of similar quality. It’s just that my ability to truly appreciate this stuff is not very well developed and so the gigantic hassle of trying to score a bottle makes the entire experience not worth it. Continue reading

Van Winkle Rye 13

Van Winkle
Let me begin by saying that I have placed this review in the category “Whisky by Distillery” because most people are likely to look there to see if I have any reviews of Van Winkle whiskies (assuming, of course, that anyone looks to see if I have reviews of anything). However, as there is no Van Winkle distillery, only a brand, this should really go under Van Winkle as a bottler. Who distilled the whiskey that was in the bottle my sample came from is also not clear. As per the source of my sample—who knows far, far more about American whiskey than I do—there’s not much more than strong conjecture/mythology about the provenance. I don’t want to repeat things I don’t know for sure and so I will leave it to anyone who knows more to shed any clear light they may have on where Van Winkle Rye bottled in 2010 came from.

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WhistlePig 10

Continuing in my series of rye reviews (“Two of something is not a series,” ed.) here is a rye that scoffs at High West’s blend of 95% and 80% rye mashbills and proclaims its purity. Yes, this is 100%, bitches, you better recognize. This kind of gangsta talk which comes naturally to me (as you would readily recognize were you to meet me) is not usually associated with either Vermont or Canada, both lands not known for their blackness, either in terms of demographics or soul. Why am I dragging Vermont and Canada into this, you ask, thereby revealing that your knowledge of American whiskey is even poorer than mine? Well, it is because while this rye is sold by the WhistlePig distillery located in Vermont it is actually shipped there from Canada (yes, all of it) and bottled. Like almost every other renowned new American distillery, WhistlePig is yet to bring its own aged distillate to market. It’s going to be darkly hilarious if/when all these whiskies do hit the market they’re markedly worse than the “sourced” whiskies they sold to keep cash flowing in the interim.

But enough foolish preamble! Let us to the whiskey!
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High West Rendezvous Rye

Rendezvous Rye
I don’t know very much about rye whiskey and my experience of it is even smaller. I know that to be called rye the mash bill has to be at least 51% rye (analogous to bourbon’s 51% corn mash bill) but I’m not sure if there are more restrictions a la bourbon. I guess I could google it but I don’t want to give the impression that I am an active, resourceful sort. Indeed, I would not have made it in Park City, Utah in the 19th century. That’s a non-sequitur, you think, but the joke’s on you! High West is located in Park City, Utah, which I am assuming was settled in the 19th century (see above for my ambivalent relationship with the idea of googling to find things out).

This rye isn’t distilled there, however. I believe High West’s own distillate is still maturing. In the meantime they are bottling spirits that their website says they “found back East” . Doesn’t that sound nice? They “found it”. It’s like David Perkins was out for a walk through all of the American East and came upon barrels of Rye resting underneath a waterfall, guarded by an army of enlightened beavers who handed it over to him as they recognized that he was the guardian foretold in ancient beaver lore. Or perhaps he stole it and now an army of angry beaver warriors has sworn a blood feud against him and his descendants that only the One–born of beaver and woman–will be able to settle. Continue reading