Author & Taster: Zachary Jones (follow on Instagram @zjones3)
Participating Taster: Jesse Nicholson (follow on Instagram @j.nicholson11)
Jesse Nicholson and I went ahead and ran through the entire Thomas H. Handy (THH) lineup in a blind format. The methods we used for this tasting were to fill ten equal identical sample bottles into the neck of the vial and put temporary blue tape on the lids labeled A-J with a cut sheet identifying what each vial was. A third party came behind pulled off each blue piece tape and placed a circular identical sticker with the letters A-J in random order on the vial as pictured and recorded each alteration on the same cut sheet and closed the cut sheet page until the tasting was completed.
All samples were done blind, neat and 0.50-0.60oz in size in unmarked Glencairns. They were broken up into 2 groups. A,C,E,G,I and B, D, F, H,J. Think of these as tasted in order like this from left to right 1,2,3,4,…. 10. Eventually after assigning 1-5 rankings for each group of five, there was enough left in each of the glasses that all ten were brought together for comparisons only to assign rankings.
Results are as follows:
Overall winner – 1 first place vote and 1 second place vote:
THH 2007 (vial J – the closer) – This one is really nice. This is the only one I didn’t write notes for on because I ran out of room and have had this pour on several occasions. Lots of great baking spices on this one. Cinnamon, Nutmeg, etc. Just a great overall pour.
My notes also dissipated a bit the further on in the tasting. Just too many similar notes and didn’t want to keep writing the same thing over and over.
2nd Place – 1 fourth place vote and 1 first place vote:
THH 2008 (vial A – the opener) – My notes were as follows. N: Honey, butterscotch, cotton candy, little rye spice on the back end. Not much heat upfront. Candy corn. P: Rye spice takes off. Very bold. Wintergreen, crisp, cinnamon, honey combs. F: Really solid but subtle. Medium length. dissipates a bit quickly.
3rd Place – 1 second place vote and 1 third place vote:
THH 2006 (vial F) – My notes were: N: Rye, cherry blossoms, dew, wintergreen, a bakers delight with spices. P: rich, creamy, rye, cinnamon, sweet, nutmeg. F: really great stuff and well balanced. Long finish. 07 or 06.
4th Place – 1 third place vote and 1 fourth place vote:
THH 2012 (vial H) – Notes: N: brown sugar, sweet, candied. Rye. Interestingly different. Dense and rich. P: Dry, woody, enjoyable in a crazy weird kind of way. Not overly complex, not hot. F: a bit short but I like this stuff. Silky smooth.
5th Place – 2 sixth place votes:
THH 2013 (Vial E) – Notes: N: caramel apple, sugar, honey comb, honey dew. P: Sweet, candy corn, not much rye. Not very hot. F: Really nice. This is definitely one of 2010-2015. **I made some notes like this pertaining to what vintage was on certain pours because at the very end we were going to try to guess which was in each glass regardless of how poorly we may do for 10 glasses.**
6th Place (Tie) – 1 fifth place vote, and 1 ninth place vote:
THH 2014 (Vial D) – Notes: N: Bubble gum, cherry, not a lot of rye, but still a presence. Wintergreen. P: Cherry, rye spice a huge role. F: Medium in length, balanced, no real stand out flavors here except the lingering cherry rye.
6th Place (Tie) – 1 ninth place vote, 1 fifth place vote:
THH 2009 (Vial I) – This pour didn’t do it for me. But Jesse knew this one immediately and he really enjoyed it. Not sure if that was a factor or not for his 5th place nod.
Notes: N: Sweet,candy corn, brown sugar, not much rye, bubble gum. P: A bit raw, oxidation-like, soap, pepper. Not overly interesting but smooth. Gave up on any other notes mid palate.
8th Place – 2 seventh place votes:
THH 2015 (Vial G) – N: caramel apple, sugar, honey, honey dew. P: sweet, candy corn, not much rye. Not much heat. F: Really nice. Definitely 2010 or later vintage.
9th Place (Tie) – 1 eighth place vote, 1 tenth place vote:
THH 2010 (Vial smiley face – Notes: N: rye, mint, caramel, candy corn, cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper. P: rich creamy, vanilla, honey suckle. F: long, pronounced and nice blend of flavor and heat. Not super complex. **as you can see here my notes on this pour aren’t bad. But it finished really low. The best way to describe this is these are just ten really solid pours. Later upon comparing this one against 4-5 similar 6th-10th place pours for me this one just didn’t stand out.**
9th Place (Tie) – 1 tenth place vote, 1 eighth place vote:
THH 2011 (Vial C) – N: Honey, caramel apples, subtle spice, marshmallows, candy corn. P: tastes oxidized, rosemary, varnish, not overly intesting, have a hunch this is 2011 and contaminated. Granny smith apples. Finish – medium long, more heat, nice long burn, but nothing interesting on the backend. **note: this was vialed off for at least 18months. Some degradation starts to happen at this point in my experience. This pour has never done it for me throughout the length of my bottle but I don’t actually believe this would finish dead last on a fresh bottle. But don’t think it would go higher than fifth or sixth either. **
In the end we compared notes and discussed. Jesse guessed exactly 3 vintages correctly and I guessed exactly 6 vintages correctly out of 10 bottles. I don’t recall which ones other than he immediately knew 2009 and possibly 2007.Tags: Bourbon, bourbon blog, bourbon ranking, bourbon review, cleveland, review, Thomas H. Handy, Thomas H. Handy Epic vertical review, Thomas H. Handy review, Whiskey blog, Whiskey review