Whiskey Name: Dad’s Hat 3 year old Straight Rye (La Maison du Whisky 60th Anniversary Edition)
Distillery: Dad’s Hat
Whiskey Type: Straight Rye
Release Date: 2016
Age: 3 years old
Mashbill: Presumably Dad’s Hat standard: 80% rye, 5% malted rye, 15% malted barley
Introduction/Background: Before bourbon took over as top US whiskey dog, rye was very much the spirit of the states. Especially rye from the North East.
Times moved on, and rye fell out of fashion to the point of near-extinction. But it’s back with a bang now, and distilleries in the North East are rediscovering their heritage.
Enter Dad’s Hat. They’re based in Bristol, Pennsylvania; one of those many towns whose name lays American creativity open to quite a bit of scrutiny. But there is something rather refreshing about Dad’s Hat itself.
Founded in 2011, they’ve been a rye distillery from the word go, rather than tinkering around with lots of different products. They’ve only released their own juice, rather than doing any sourcing, and their mashbill falls somewhere between the pretty low-rye Kentucky bills, and the 100% rye mashbills that seemingly every other craft distillery has gone with. (And then claimed in their marketing that they are really unusual for having done so.)
Dad’s Hat finally got proper UK distribution this year, and a few of their products are now easily available through the most obvious channels. This one however fell into my hands through Andrew, of the excellent Andrew’s Share blog. We chat a lot at BBS tastings, and he’s visited the distillery quite frequently, having in-laws out that way.
In his broad Dad’s Hat experience, he rated this Maison du Whisky bottling as the dog’s proverbial giblets, and was kind enough to part with a sample for the BBS review vault.
Appearance: Lighter than my typically average photo makes it look. Hazel-ish.
Nose: Big, as you’d expect. Lots of floral violet and magnolia notes straight away. I’m put in mind of Lot 40, which is no bad thing. I wonder if that’s the malted rye influence? There’s also something a little medicinal/germoline-like. Tonnes of rye bread and grain character too, before a herbal aspect appears; dill, fennel, juniper and pine. Very fresh, all in all. Alcohol is spiky but not overwhelming.
Mouth: A good bit fruitier than the nose, as is often the case with these high-rye whiskies. Candied citrus, I’d say; oranges and lemons. The pine has followed through from the nose, and been magnified, alongside that malty rye. In fact the palate leaves the nose dead for layering and complexity. Alcohol is less aggressive too. More parma violets, and a gentle overlaying of caramel.
Finish: Medium-long. I’m left with a lingering flavour of wafer biscuits.
Value for Money: Steep, but less so than most of the craft whiskey we’ve reviewed here.
Summary: I’m frequently baffled by all the young wheaty stuff that’s coming out at the moment. Wheat simply does not perform well in youth; something which all the distillers I have spoken to so far seem to agree on.
So it’s unsurprising that the quality of this young rye whiskey is a long way ahead of much of the craft whiskey pack. It’s a real celebration of the rye grain; a “greatest hits” list of the notes you’d expect to find in a whiskey of its type.
Certainly I’m left keen to explore more of what Dad’s Hat has to offer; I’ll be adding the three on Master of Malt to my never-ending Drinks by the Dram samples collection.
I do think this one is a little overpriced though, purely in terms of quality. I appreciate that it’s a very limited release (just 240 bottles) but the asking price puts it in the firing line of some serious competition.
For less money you can get Whistlepig and Masterson’s 10 year olds and the exceptional St George’s 2 year old. For less than a tenner more, Michter’s Barrel Proof becomes available. And that’s before we consider the imminent release of Lot 40 Cask Strength 12 year old. This Dad’s Hat, whilst very good, isn’t quite in the same league.
However, if you’re a rye-lover lucky enough to have the aforementioneds already, and still have cash to burn, a bottle of this certainly won’t leave you disappointed.
Overall Verdict: A big, vibrant, cask strength rye, well worth giving a go.
Words by WhiskyPilgrim