I don’t often think of Pennsylvania when I think of whiskey, but perhaps I should start since, at least according to Mountain Laurel Spirits, it is the home of rye whiskey. Mountain Laurel Spirits of Bristol seems to be working on some interesting ryes. Not only a straight rye but also a white rye, a two year old rye, a cask strength rye, and two double finished ryes; both aged at least six months and then finished for an additional three months in either port wine or sweet vermouth barrels. While young, that is quite a lineup for a rye drinker like me! So, when Binny’s had the vermouth finished variation on sale, I decided to jump.
This redish-amber drink is full of hope yet presents some seriously unusual characteristics. I found it's nose off-putting. It is -so- full of rye and pepper that it’s hard to get to other flavors.. except for the tobacco and ammonia smells and, perhaps burnt orange rind in there somewhere. I don’t know why, but the combination almost kept me from tasting it. Maybe I was expecting to smell a manhattan given the rye and sweet vermouth. Instead, I kept thinking of rotting wood and musty forests. Not exactly what I hoped for.
When I finally mustered the courage taste it, I found it to be very dry with an edge of sour. Any sweetness that you taste at the beginning fades almost immediately to the remains of a barrel of charred rye. The best part of this whiskey is the finish which reminded me of a really good fruit cake’s nutty citrus flavors… as long as it was a rye-bread fruit cake. If I didn’t smell it and drank it quickly, the finish was fairly palatable.
Given the vermouth finish, I had to try this as a manhattan. Fortunately, this made for a much better cocktail then it is neat. The actual vermouth and bitters tempered the overly strong flavors. The taste goes right into the spicy side of the spectrum. It retains some of the sour but that pairs well with the bitters (especially cherry bitters) even if the finish remains a bit charred. I think the combination might be just the thing when sitting next to a campfire. I also agree with Jack Bettridge who’s contends in his Cigar Aficionado review (http://www.cigaraficionado.com/webfeatures/show/id/17268 ) that this rye is best served in an old fashioned. The sweet fruits pair well with the bitter edge of the Dad’s Hat.
When I tried Dad’s Hat neat, I was afraid I had bought a bottle that would end up shoved to the back of my bar. Yet I found it is a decent spirit when put in an old fashioned. I can drink this, but I doubt I’ll buy another bottle.
You know what I really learned from this experience? I learned that I need to revisit my policy of having an open mind when buying a bottle of whiskey. From now on, I’m not buying a bottle of something without reading reviews. Don’t worry... I’m perfectly willing to risk the money for a blind date with an individual drink at a bar. I’ll be fine.