The Thomas H Handy Straight Rye whiskey is another one of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection whiskies – that much sought-after and well-respected series. Who the hell was Thomas H. Handy? He was the owner of the Sazerac Hotel in New Orleans, and in 1869 he purchased the Sazerac Coffeehouse – then started pumping out liquor. He worked his way up to become founder of the Sazerac Company and helped alter the famous Sazerac Cocktail recipe to bring in American rye whiskey as opposed to Cognac.
Thomas H Handy Straight Rye 2011 was recently voted as the best whisk(e)y in the world according to the Jim Murray Whisky Bible 2013 – note the lag of a year, since the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection tends to be released past the cut-off point to make that year’s Whisky Bible. The 2012 releases have only just gone on sale. This whiskey has been made from a recipe of rye from Minnesota, corn from Kentucky and malted barley from North Dakota, and the spirit was aged for six years – just goes to show that whisk(e)y doesn’t have to be old to be good.
Colour: a light ale, and not as dark as I was expecting. A peach hue to it. On the nose: jam on toast. Big lashings of summer fruits and dark sugar. Stewed apples. A hint of aniseed. Boiled sweets. Cardamom, cloves.
In the mouth: a sweet shop explosion, this will ruin your teeth all right. A neat, very zippy follow-through of those same stewing sugared fruits from the nose, which comes in thick hefty waves. Though this has some strong woody flavours that compliment it, almost dominating the drink at times. The same aniseed note comes through, which on the tongue seems to remind me of Pernod (and that’s not something I’m a particular fan of). Sultanas and raisins. Pepper, cinnamon and that same sense of warming you get in a bazillion other whiskies. Some really interesting tea flavours, and a delightful mineral note on the very long finish.
And that strength? You’d hardly notice (though I have been drinking a fairly strong single grain recently, so that could cloud my judgement).
Good whiskey? Yes.
Great whiskey? Still yes.
Best in the world? You what? Get out.