In September we reported on the 2017 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection release, which this year yielded about 15% more Thomas H. Handy Sazerac barrels than the previous year. A few days ago I was fortunate enough to snag a 2017 bottle to go alongside my 2016 release.
We previously reviewed the 2016 release, which clocked in at 126.2 proof, here and here. The product release sheets for 2017 and 2016 show the few subtle differences, including a slightly higher 127.2 proof, but both are Buffalo Trace’s low-rye (51% rye) mash bill, aged for 6+ years, and bottled at barrel proof.
This weekend I sat down with both bottles to compare. The results were quite satisfying.
Thomas H. Handy Sazerac (2017) (127.2 Proof) (6 Years, 5 Months)
Nose: Allspice; the familiar Buffalo Trace sweet aroma is definitely there; some cedar; caramel; dill; more herbal (mostly dill and rosemary) notes come forward the longer it breathes. I would not peg this as over 120 proof, maybe not even over 100, as the ethanol is so delicate. (4/5)
Palate: The herbal notes hit first, with the dill and rosemary fading into a flurry of baking spices, along with some caramel and nougat, almost like a Milky Way candy bar. (4.5/5)
Finish: Long; the kind of finish that reverberates with a mix of sweet rye bread, then transitioning back to a more herbal dill/rosemary loaf with a hint of thyme. (4.5/5)
Thomas H. Handy Sazerac (2016) (126.2 proof) (6 Years, 3 Months)
Nose: The allspice is also prominent, but this smells sweeter, with more of a salted caramel profile and less herbal. (4/5)
Palate: This leads with a silky sweet caramel, then transitions into vanilla extract and soft peppery rye spice. There are some nutmeg and baking spice notes, too. (5/5)
Finish: Also long, but does not have the same aftershock effect as the 2017. This finish is more notable for its balance. The sweet caramel, vanilla, and baking spices are in harmony throughout the finish. (4/5)
The 2017 bottle seems more like a traditional rye than 2016, which could easily be mistaken for a bourbon. Both of these bottles accomplish a full flavor profile that the alcohol does not shroud or overpower. I enjoyed both the 2016 and the 2017 Thomas H. Handy bottles equally, but would say that bourbon lovers would prefer 2016, while rye enthusiasts would prefer 2017. No one would be disappointed with either.
Overall (2016 and 2017): Hype aside – they are simply very tasty whiskeys that have a depth and complexity to capture your attention, while still being very drinkable. For the youngest member of BTAC, it easily holds its own. (4.5/5)
Value (2016 and 2017): These are so great at retail. Some might quibble about the 6 year age needing to be older for roughly $100 price tag, but that’s the only thing preventing this from being 5/5. (4/5)
“I enjoyed both the 2016 and the 2017 Thomas H. Handy bottles equally, but would say that bourbon lovers would prefer 2016, while rye enthusiasts would prefer 2017.”