So I was bored today and thought I would do a tasting of the 6 year (Baby) Sazerac, the Sazerac 18, and the Thomas Handy.
The Baby Saz is my go to mixing rye, and the Saz 18 has always been my favorite rye (though I love black maple hill 23 and haven't tried hirsch or old portrero yet), but I've been curious about how these would match up glass to glass. I had someone else pour to go blind and went at it.
It turns out I know these three really well. I was able to nail them from smell alone... though after this test I think they are different enough that just about anyone could do it.
The Baby Saz smelled like cherries and spice, with a sweet back-end; it immediately put images of Manhattans dancing through my head (probably because I've made countless manhattans with this liquor). The Saz 18 was the richest and most robust. It had a heavy vanilla and oak scent. The Handy is all dried fruit and obviously, at 138.4 proof, a heavy alcohol whiff.
Tasting confirmed my suspicions. The Handy (which I tried first) tasted like apricots, and was expectedly hot. I know it's a strong whiskey, but I've always felt like the handy was one of the sweetest whiskeys I've ever had. It's great for sazerac cocktails and a riff on the moto guzzi (1 Handy to 1 Punt E Mes, stirred for quite a while - only for fans of the bitterness), but when I'm sipping it the fruitiness overwhelms.
The 18, which I tasted second, was like coming home. So smooooooooooth and delicious. Even though I love serious upfront ryes (and even prefer a bourbon like Bulleit that uses a lot of rye), I feel like the 18 has the sophistication of a fine scotch, and while it's hard to track down, the comparative price levels make this the steal of the century.
After the Handy, tasting the Baby Saz was like tasting water, but the spiciness shined through, and I still think it's a superior mixer when compared to overholt or rittenhouse, and worth the extra dollars. Still, I'd never sip it when the 18 is within reach.