Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye, 45%, $39
I wasn’t that impressed with Mountain Laurel Spirits’ Dad’s Hat rye at first. Like other craft distillers, they had quite a learning curve to overcome. The first few bottlings I tasted were muddled, just not focused on what they wanted to be, and it was likely that the makers hadn’t decided what they wanted it to be yet.
When I first tasted this new bottling at the distillery, back in August, I could see that the whiskey had evolved. Although they have a small amount of straight whiskey aged in 53-gallon barrels, the main label is being bottled at 8 to 9 months old, from 15-gallon barrels. Herman Mihalich—the distiller—is making his cuts to optimize the spirit for that age. Then John Cooper—the blender—samples, blends, considers, and makes the batch.
The result is an excellent young rye. The nose is clean and complex: crushed grain, grasses, sweet spice, and the bitter herbal note of rye. It’s all there on the tongue with a light barrel character, moving to a neatly integrated finish.
It’s locally-grown rye (I drive through some of the fields on my way to the Whisky Advocate offices), 15% malt, and 5% rye malt, a classic proportion for the “Monongahela Red” color and character of Pennsylvania rye whiskey. Rye is all they make, with a couple finishes. The focus has paid off. This is a rye any Pennsylvanian can be proud of. —Lew Bryson
Check back tomorrow for our American Whiskey of the Year announcement.