Review: Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey

DSR – PA – 003: Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey

Company/Distillery: Mountain Laurel Spirits, LLC

Location: Bristol, Pennsylvania

Mash Bill: 80% Rye, 15% Barley Malt, 5% Rye Malt

Age Statement: Aged a Minimum of 8 Months

Proof/ABV: 90 Proof/45% ABV

Color & Viscosity: Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye is soft tawny in color. It appears thin in the tasting vessel with an equally thin viscous line. Legs develop swiftly and proceed down the sides of the glass and into the belly of the tasting vessel, leaving behind an oily residue.

Purchase Price: $35.99 from Fine Wine & Spirits, Lititz, PA – July 2021

Bottle Label Information:

Front Label

“Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey”

“Genuine Small Batch”

“Craft Whiskey of the Year – Whiskey Advocate”

“Distilled and Bottled by Mountain Laurel Spirits, LLC in Bristol, PA USA”

Back Label

“Using only natural, local ingredients and the most careful methods, Dad’s Hat is made in Pennsylvania – the birthplace of Rye Whiskey – in honor of that wonderful, optimistic time in America’s history when we made things and took care to make them well.”

“Dad’s Hat Rye Whiskey reflects that same simple, uniquely American personality better than any other whiskey. Crisp. Smooth. Delicious; not lingering or heavy-handed in its finish. Perfect for every occasion. After tasting Dad’s Hat, we hope that you feel the same.”

“Aged a Minimum of 8 Months in New Oak Quarter Cask Barrels.”

Distillery Background

Mountain Laurel Spirits, LLC

Mountain Laurel Spririts, LLC was founded in 2011 by friends Herman Mihalich and John Cooper in Bristol, Pennsylvania. Prior to opening the distillery, Mr. Mihalich would enjoy a career as a chemical engineer, while Mr. Cooper would spend 34 years in sales and marketing in Throggs Neck, New York. The two would eventually merge their past experiences and love of fine whiskies to launch Dad’s Hat Distillery.

Growing up in Monessen, Pennsylvania, Mihalich fondly remembers living above his family’s bar, where he recalls rye whiskey being served as specialty item and a beverage that his grandfather and father both enjoyed. In 2006, Mihalich would read about rye whiskey and its comeback to the world of whiskey. This served as an inspiration and helped Mihalich channel his past and join forces with college buddy, John Cooper. This would commence his journey into making traditional Pennsylvania rye whiskey. In fact, Dad’s Hat Rye Whiskey is named in honor of Mihalich’s father, who was known to don a Stetson Fedora hat whenever he left the house. He took great pride in his hats and the polished look they gave him as he went into the world to tackle his day. It is with that same approach that Mihalich and Cooper carefully handcraft their traditional Pennsylvania rye whiskey.

Dad’s Hat Rye Whiskey takes pride in following over 200 years of Pennsylvania rye whiskey tradition. The distillery has strategically aligned itself with local Pennsylvania vendors and farmers who provide their crops, glass bottles, and labels for the Dad’s Hat products. In addition, Mountain Laurel Spirits returns all spent mash back to farmers in order to provide feed for their cattle. This helps keep the production process, raw goods, and recycled materials all within the state, just as it would have been done decades ago.

Mountain Laurel Spirits, LLC currently produces Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey, Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Straight Rye Whiskey, Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Straight Rye Whiskey Bottled-in-Bond, Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey Finished in Vermouth Barrels, and Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey Finished in Port Wine Barrels. For more information on the distillery and their products, check out their website.

Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey

Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey is distilled, aged, and bottled at the distillery located in Bristol, Pennsylvania. This traditional rye whiskey mash bill of 80% rye, 15% barley malt, and 5% rye malt was developed along side of the Artisan Distilling Program at Michigan State University. This mash is fermented for a week prior to being distilled in a 500-gallon combination pot and column still. The whiskey is then aged in charred quarter cask (roughly 15-gallon) barrels. The whiskey is then aged for a minimum of 8 months before being blended together in small batches and bottled for distribution. This Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey is bottled at 90 proof. Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye whiskey was awarded the Craft Whiskey of the Year for 2015 by Whiskey Advocate along with a Silver Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

Tasting Notes

Tasting Date/Vessel: August 18, 2021 – Neat in Glencairn Glass; Then with a few added drops of distilled water.


Christian: Taking a nose of this whiskey, first from the bottle, offers notes of traditional ryes– hints of rye grain, brown sugar, and a slight fruitiness. There is also a hint of smokiness present. The aroma from within my Glencairn glass is really intriguing. To start off with, I notice a malt forward rye grain influenced aroma. It reminds me a lot of freshly baked bread – one that produces a deep brown tone bread. This is quickly followed by a sweetness that is similar to simple syrup made with sugar in the raw. Finally, there is an obvious citrus, vanilla, and spice punch that rounds out the nose. I must admit, I am a bit captivated by what I am smelling here. The addition of distilled water doesn’t change the overall flavor profile in the nose, however, it does add to the richness of the aromas. A deeper butterscotch aroma is added into the fold, but the hallmark rye spices and influences remain.

Mike: Nosing this whiskey from the bottle, gentle tones of cigar tobacco peek through, along with gentle wafts of stone fruit and rye spice. From the glass, fresh honey crisp apples that transition to warm brown sugar, fill the nostrils. A pinch of citrus spice, like crisp lemon zest, permeates my nose as I swirl the whiskey in the glass. As the whiskey begins to settle, delicate aromas of leather emerge before yielding to an inviting aroma of stovetop stewed apples.


Christian: The mouthfeel on this Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey is soft and a bit thin – not a lot of body or viscosity on the tongue or mouth. I am absolutely not surprised that the first thing I notice is the rich rye flavor, based on the mash bill. I also notice a decent amount of toasted oak, vanilla, and honey in this pour. The spiciness is a lot less like typical rye cinnamons and clove; instead it’s much more delicate, similar to nutmeg. The distilled water takes an already soft and thin mouthfeel and makes it gentle. The taste profile begins to lose some of the spices present previously and instead takes on more of the honey and vanilla characteristics. A touch of toasted oak still remains.

Mike: Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye has a thin and semi-dry mouthfeel. Baking spices delight mid-palate with rich oak and heavy leather tones moving front to back. This whiskey offers a burst of young heat as hints of mealy apples linger at the back of the palate.


Christian: The finish here is much more tame than I expected. There is a decent amount of rye kick that first shows itself on the backend, before slowly rising again in the form of a nice warming sensation in my chest. It is rather short to medium in finish and quite dry–lots of charred oak, vanilla and melon (dare I say, honeydew). As the flavors begin to dissipate well after the spirit is swallowed, I get my first real touch of green apples or freshly harvested pears. This is a really nice finish to this pour. Adding water seems to allow the spice kick to remain, but relives some of the dryness experienced before. The finish keeps some of those fruity qualities from before, however, instead of apples or pears, it veers off into the direction of dark cherries accompanied by raisin bran cereal.

Mike: This rye presents a medium finish overall. A touch of rye spice amuses the back of the throat with a muted sting, then closes with a surge of ethanol and oak bitterness. Semi-sweet apple flavors linger on the palate after the whiskey has been consumed.

Our Rating

Final Thoughts

Christian: To be honest, my first pass at this Dad’s Hat Rye Whiskey didn’t leave me with anything particularly memorable. I thought it was a fair, middle of the road, rye offering. I am glad we tasted again, alone, before writing our respective reviews. Upon tasting Dad’s Hat Rye Whiskey again I can say without a doubt that it is my favorite Pennsylvania Rye product we have tried to date. The nose on this whiskey is intriguing, pleasant, and enticing. I found the taste to be a little underwhelming but approachable, and more refined then its peer Pennsylvania ryes. Finally, the finish offered enough spice to be enjoyable without overpowering and killing the experience. I think Mountain Laurel Spirits accomplishes their goal here–a rye that is approachable and enjoyable. I definitely would like to try some of the other offerings by Dad’s Hat soon!

Rating: 2.95 Rickhouses

Mike: Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye has broad apple flavors throughout. While I’m not as experienced with rye whiskey as I am with bourbon, the apple qualities appear to be prevalent in most ryes that we’ve reviewed since starting Rickhouse Ramblings. This rye is more apple forward than others that I can recall. The nose is bountiful in aroma, however, the mouth and finish are relatively mundane and lack the complexities offered up by the nose. I enjoyed the proof at 90 and felt it offered just enough warmth–a simple sipping whiskey. As always, I’m curious if additional aging would help develop and finetune the overall flavor for this whiskey. As it’s bottled, it is an unassuming offering.

Rating: 2.875 Rickhouses


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