One of the perks of my job is that I get to travel a few times a year. I have been all over the country and when I arrive at a new place I like to sample the local fare. As a part of that local fare I always check-out a new whiskey (if they have a local one).
This past week I was in Philadelphia. The first chance I got I went to the local liquor store and picked-up a bottle of whiskey that I have been wanting to try for a while: Dad’s Hat. While I really wanted to try the straight, cask strength version, unfortunately it is only available at the distillery and I didn’t have the ability to get there. So, I settled on the lighter yet delicious Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey.
Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey is a real category. It is like the idea of Kentucky Bourbon or Tennessee Whiskey, it has a history with distinct classifications. While it doesn’t exist in its original form anymore its history and this updated iteration are interesting.
Pennsylvania Rye or Monongahela Rye (as it was originally called) was a rye bomb unlike anything on the market today. It was made of 100% malted and unmalted rye! It had no other grains in the mashbill. The unmalted rye was the largest percentage and the malted rye filled the role of converting starches in the mash into sugar which is then distilled to make alcohol (much like malted barley is used for today).
In the late 1800s, Pennsylvania distillers started using malted barley instead of malted rye for the fermentation process which continues to be used today in most rye whiskeys (95% rye, 5% malted barley).
Since Pennsylvania Ryes didn’t use corn (like most ryes do today) the taste was more spicy and dry than today’s rye whiskey’s. And, while the last distillery to make traditional Pennsylvania Rye closed in the 1980s, Dad’s Hat is the first modern iteration.
Dad’s Hat (the master distiller’s father always wore hats) uses a mashbill consisting of 80% unmalted rye, 15% malted barley, and 5% malted rye. It is distilled, aged, and bottled in-house. It is one of still a handful of distilleries making their own rye (most are purchased from MGP in Indiana). But, while that is nice and well, how does it taste?
DAD’S HAT PENNSYLVANIA RYE WHISKEY
Distiller: Mountain Laurel Spirits, LLC
Age: A Minimum of 6 Months (In Quarter Cask Barrels – Smaller Barrels)
Mashbill: 80/15/5 (Rye/Malted Barley/Malted Rye)
Carmel or Light Honey.
I did not have a tasting glass to do this review. Some tasting notes were muted (especially on the nose). I will put a range on my score for this reason.
Fresh baked rye bread, dill, and spice. These notes were followed by a lot of caramel and vanilla. Fruit licorice. Some new make notes (white rye whiskey). A small amount of barrel char. Very little ethanol. It was a pleasant nose.
Same notes as the nose but in reverse. I get the caramel and vanilla up-front followed by the rye bread, dill, and spice. It transitions from smooth to spicy. Very pleasant. I didn’t notice any new make on the palate. I don’t know where this lies in the palate but it is unique. I have not had a rye that tastes like this one. It gets some nice points here.
Medium. Spicy and sweet gives way to spicy and dry. Slowly fading burn at the back of the palate.
The value is pretty good. Compared to other new and emerging distilleries who price their whiskies in the $50-75 range, the fact that this one comes in under $40 is a win. However, I would still lean towards the similar priced ryes from Wild Turkey and High West. Still, if you are looking for a unique rye at a decent price this is a good bet.
This is a good rye. It is not a great rye. The entire experience was nice and unique. It would work really well in a Manhattan (90 proof). If you are look for a new, fun, and unique rye then go for it. I might pass the next time around if there were similarly priced and older ryes on the shelf. But, if I ever get the chance to get my hands on a bottle of the straight, cask strength version I am sure it will be a big winner.
85-87/100 (A Solid Tipple)