By Jake Emen
Rye whiskey has its roots in Pennsylvania. As it’s likely more popular across the country today than at any point since Prohibition’s reign, it’s only fitting that the spirit has returned home.
Enter Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey, produced by Mountain Laurel Spirits in Bristol, PA, a spirit very much modeled on the tradition of rye whiskey which dates back 200 years. In a vintage style, tall and tapered bottle, Dad’s Hat aims to bring back some old fashioned American tradition to the forefront, and a rye whiskey made both for today’s cocktail craze as well as straight sipping.
Dad’s Hat begins with its White Rye, intended to be a drinkable, high quality white whiskey right from the stills. The mashbill is a combination of 80% local rye grain, and 20% malted barley. Mountain Laurel then takes a portion of their unaged white rye, and ages it for at least six months in charred white oak quarter casks to produce Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey. The whiskey is bottled at 45% abv.
The malt, along with the charred barrels, provide different characteristics to Dad’s Hat than some other ryes currently available. While it retains the characteristic rye spice, with peppery notes, it’s less spicy and sharp than most people tend to think of rye as, mellowed out by a lingering malty (not corn) sweetness.
On the nose, you get enough of that malt to throw you for a momentary loop about what your bottle or glass contains. Tasting Dad’s Hat, the rye and malt work together in tandem for a smooth sip and a heavier, rich mouthfeel. The finish is short, with pepper, dried fruit and malt.
Ultimately, I believe Dad’s Hat, first released in summer 2012, is a good start to a whiskey which would ultimately benefit from increased aging. More time in the barrel should provide an increased complexity and depth to its flavors. The 1-2 punch of rye and malt differentiates Dad’s Hat from the masses; if that combination was perfected – I actually think the malt masks the rye a bit too much – Dad’s Hat would advance to the next level.
Dad’s Hat is available for purchase online at multiple retailers starting at $39.99 for a 750 ml bottle. I’ve also seen it for as much as $49.99. They also have a growing distribution network, currently including Pennsylvania, D.C., New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and California.
Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey recently took home honors at the 2013 Good Food Awards, joining their east coast neighbors and rye-producing competitors Catoctin Creek’s Roundstone Rye on the podium.