November 28, 2019
A Thomas Handy vs Pikesville comparison might seem strange, but it actually is relevant and potentially insightful. Thomas Handy Sazerac, the younger rye whiskey in the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, is one of the most popular and sought-after rye whiskeys made today. Pikesville Rye, Heaven Hill’s Maryland-style rye, was re-released recently with growing interest and fairly wide availability. Even with the drastic difference in popularity, not to mention price, both are still high-proof, at least 6-year-old, and “barely legal” (51% rye in the mash) rye whiskeys. In this Thomas Handy vs Pikesville comparison, I’ll explore how different they really are and find out if I can pinpoint what makes Thomas Handy so much more desirable.
The below table outlines key facts and figures for each rye whiskey.
Pikesville Rye and Thomas Handy are both wonderful rye whiskeys, but I already knew that since I’ve reviewed them already. It’s so interesting that even with similar “barely legal” rye foundations and age, they turn out so radically different. On pure drinking experience alone, I’m still not sure which one I like better because they are both so unique. Pikesville Rye is a lot like Booker’s: herbal, floral, and nutty with great caramel, brown sugar, vanilla buttercream, orange, and plum traits, kind of like a honey roasted peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It’s also emits musty wood, mint, and cocoa, resulting in an overall darker personality. Thomas Handy is mint and anise-forward with honey, citrus, licorice, tropical fruits, and healthy servings of spicy cinnamon, clove, and pepper, but with less musty wood and no nuttiness. Both are comparably sweet, but Pikesville is darker, nuttier, and woodier while Thomas Handy is brighter, fruitier, and spicier.
I don’t really want to declare a winner, but all things considered, Pikesville Rye wins. You’d think that Thomas Handy, with a $300+ secondary price, would outperform Pikesville, but that’s the hype fueling that mindset. Even at $100, Handy does not greatly outperform Pikesville. Pikesville Rye is awesome and relatively affordable for those who like more nutty, herbal, and floral rye whiskey, but it’s not for everyone. Thomas Handy is the drink for special occasions because you’ll be hard pressed to find another bottle. I don’t consider price in my reviews, but when I think about quality vs price in this comparisons, Pikesville Rye wins.