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Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Straight Rye

This straight rye is named after the 19th-century New Orleans bartender and owner of the Sazerac Coffee House, and—more importantly—the man who reinvented the Sazerac cocktail by making it with rye whiskey instead of brandy. Uncut and unfiltered, this barrel-strength spirit was aged for just over six years and then hand-bottled at a muscular 126.9 proof, with a handwritten label attesting to its cask strength (which varies slightly with each yearly batch). With a creamy texture and a hint of cherry, there is nonetheless a touch of roughness that demands a 20-percent addition of branch (distilled) water, which releases aged cedar and dark fruit. Definitely a sipping whiskey for long, cold nights, it harkens back to the classic ryes that helped launch the first Manhattan, and a number of cattle drives before that. ($70)

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