I recently received an email from Herman Mihalich of Dad’s Hat Rye. I have always liked Dad’s Hat Rye since John Lipman brought back a bottle from Pennsylvania soon after they started distilling. Their Bonded Rye is a very good rye whiskey, so it proved to me that I was right – They are doing things well at the distillery. When I published my blog on rye whiskeys I would like to see made, I heard from them and they lowered their distillation proof. Now Herman tells me that they are carrying forward with an experimental rye. Needless to say, I am thrilled about this experiment. I would like to see other distilleries experiment with what they are making as well, so I am looking forward to the result of this experiment.

Dad’s Hat Distillery is going to make a rye whiskey using some of the suggestions I had listed in the mentioned blog. Here is what they are going to do as told to me by Herman:

  1. They are going to use an heirloom rye. They have sourced Rosen Rye from Bucks County, Pennsylvania from Meadow Brooks Farm in Reigelsville. It should be dry enough to harvest in a few days so they look to start mashing the grain soon afterward.
  2. They are using the sweet mash process, as they do with all of their rye whiskey.
  3. The Mash Bill will be 80% Rosen Rye, 15% two row Barley Malt, and 5% malted rye.
  4. They will distill it at 125 proof as I suggested in the blog.
  5. They will enter it into the barrel at 103 proof, as suggested in my blog.
  6. The barrels will be heavily toasted with a Number two char as suggested in my blog.

This is an exciting mash bill. I am not going to say new mash bill, because I suspect that a hundred and fifty years ago, a similar rye was being made in Pennsylvania.  I am curious as to how the heritage variety of rye will change the flavor. Heritage corn does change the flavor in Bourbon, so I cannot help but believe it will do the same in a rye grain. It is well known that the sweet mash process gives whiskey a different flavor, but since they make their standard rye using the sweet mash process, it will be hard to tell what difference it makes compared to what they are making now. 

The mash bill has what is considered by today’s standards, a high barley malt content. I suspect it will have a nuttier and sweeter flavor as a result. The low distillation proof will allow more of the grain flavor to come through. The higher you distill a whiskey, the less grain flavor, because the higher you distill anything, the more flavor is taken out of the beer. That is why vodka is distilled at over 190 proof – the point is to remove as much flavor as possible, leaving only the flavor of alcohol. 

The low barrel entry proof will allow the whiskey to get more sugars from the barrel wood at a younger age. It will also mean less water is needed to reduce the whiskey to proof. Herman didn’t mention as to how long they plan to age the whiskey and what proof they will bottle it, but I am hoping they decide to bottle the whiskey as a Bottled-in-Bond product. Finally, the high toast and low char level of the barrels will probably give the whiskey more vanilla and butterscotch flavors and fewer tannins. 

I am excited about this project. Herman promised to keep me in the loop as the whiskey is made and ages. I am also thinking a trip to Pennsylvania to visit the distillery will be in order. I am not going to rush a trip, because I would like to see at least one summer of aging before I taste it. However, if he wants to send me a sample bottle of the new make or for that matter, any other whiskey from Dad’s Hat Distillery, I would not say no…

Photos courtesy of Rosemary Miller and Dad’s Hat