Review #62: Thomas H Handy Sazerac 2017

We have been meaning to go to Interval at Long Now (tucked away in Fort Mason) in San Francisco for a long time. We finally made it – since we were up at North Beach for a haircut. The walk was ~45 minutes to the haircut place and then 30 more for Interval at Long Now – so… it is not close to our house. Hence it’s been 4 years since we bookmarked it to now (when we finally visited).

Long Now is a foundation for technology and books to rebuild civilization. It’s an interesting idea (I’m perhaps more of an optimist) but the real draw for me is that they make excellent cocktails. We had a few that we enjoyed, including one from their 6 San Francisco Negroni Week 2019 specials (both our bartenders Justin and Jeremy highly recommended it) called the “Middle Aged Negroni”. A really delicious mix of Old Tom gin, Kina L’aero D’or, and Aperol. We also got a Hacker Club (tall lime-infused Barbados rum, mate syrup, lime and soda) and Ben’s Manual (amantillado sherry, sweet vermouth, rye, Drambuie).

Interval at Long Now entrance features an Orrery ( a mechanical model of the Solar System that illustrates or predicts the relative positions and motions of the planets and moons)
The bar at the Interval at Long Now. Small selection of spirits, but they are all unusual!
Middle Aged Negroni (Negroni week special): delicious!
Spirits list at Interval at Long Now. Surprisingly decent prices!

While scanning the spirits menu, we found the Thomas H Handy Sazerac was $20/1 oz and $30/2 oz. We’ve paid much more for it elsewhere – more to the tune of $45-$55 (at Red Phone Booth in Atlanta) so we went for it, because it was hard to taste in the cigar-heavy atmosphere of Red Phone Booth and we wanted to do official tasting notes. The only thing we remembered from before was that it was delicious – and we recalled correctly.

The bartender was enthusiastic about us trying it. He confided in horror that the bar was often rented out for private events and if the party did not meet the minimum at the end of the night, often the low-allocation BTACs would be consumed by a bunch of (already very drunk) party-goers that do not know how to appreciate the spirit.

Thomas H Handy 2017. Delicious.

Thomas H Handy 2017
  • Score - 9/10

Tasting Notes

Nose: Very nose forward. You can smell this through a cold (which one of us had). Oak board caramel, toffee and vanilla. Caramel, leather, and floral. Bath and body works.

Palate: Bright, Maple donut ice cream, spicy rye mid palate, honey. Reminiscent of fancy honey gummy bears. Varnish and creme brulee. Vanilla extract. Chinese 5 spice, cinnamon spices galore. Inhaling cinnamon. Orange marmalade.
Finish: Highly structured tannic mid to back palate. Reminiscent of a cabernet. Long and oaky.

Summary Overall: 9/10. Delicious and sweet, where the rye underscores the strong vanilla and cinnamon flavors. It is unapologetic and as subtle as a hand grenade. TLDR: Rye incarnate. Bought for: $20 for a 1 oz (? seemed like a lot more… in which case, thank you Mr. bartender!) Bottles retail for $600-800 online.

Quick overview of our scoring system. Our average score is 5.

Additional Information

  • ABV: 63.6%; 127.2 Proof
  • 2017 Limited Edition release, distilled in 2011 at 135 proof (barreled at 125 proof)
  • Age: At least 6 years (5 months at 3rd, 4th, and 5th floor of warehouses K, L, and Q); 72 barrels were selected
  • Barrel: New, charred oak barrels
  • Mash bill: Minnesota rye, Kentucky corn, North Dakota malted barley. At least 51% rye

About Thomas H Handy and BTAC

  • Thomas H. Handy had purchased a bar known as the Sazerac Coffee House (named after the cocktail) in 1869 and was the first one to use rye instead of cognac in the Sazerac cocktail
  • The Sazerac company of Handy’s has grown to now one of the two largest spirits companies in the US and owns Buffalo Trace Distillery as one of its 9 distilleries
  • Buffalo Trace releases an annual Antique Collection comprising 5 different whiskies (3 bourbons and 2 ryes): George T Stagg bourbon, William Larue Weller bourbon, Eagle Rare 17 bourbon, Sazerac Rye 18 year, Thomas H Handy Sazerac rye. These are almost impossible to find at retail.

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