Dad’s Hat Rye in PA

Dad’s Hat Rye in PA

One of the whiskey distilleries that deserves a closer look in Pennsylvania is Mountain Laurel Spirits, makers of Dad’s Hat Rye.  While so many whiskey distilleries began to introduce spirits other than whiskey to the market, Mountain Laurel Spirits only ever intended to produce rye whiskey.  Every ounce of spirit they create with their German-made pot still goes into barrels to become Dad’s Hat Rye. Dad’s Hat Rye was the brainchild of Herman Mihalich, who grew up immersed in and around his family’s bar in Monessen, Pa.  He studied Chemical Engineering at UPenn, where he would meet most of the partners he would incorporate into Mountain Laurel Spirits.  He gained experience in the workplace after school in pharmaceuticals, flavor and fragrance, but would return...

New Distilleries in Pennsylvania

New Distilleries in Pennsylvania

The American Whiskey Convention in Philadelphia was a bit of an inspiration for me to spend a bit more time discussing the boom in whiskey distilling here in Pennsylvania.  The “White Dog Row” element of the Convention showed off 11 new make spirits from 8 different local distilleries.  White whiskey is the backbone of any distillery.  It shows the character of the grain, the flavors contributed by the yeasts and the potential of the spirit.  No amount of aging can fix a bad white whiskey foundation.  I think it was important to highlight the potential of our local distilleries through their white dogs.  It also gave a chance for the distillers and representatives from those distilleries to speak directly to the public about their work and their visions for the...

Lets Hear It For The Maltsters!

Lets Hear It For The Maltsters!

One of the most amazing steps in making whiskey is the one of the first steps and is often overlooked in its importance. The first step is farming the grain, of course.  This is incredibly important in determining the quality of the grain.  So much is dependent upon the growing season, weather, rainfall and soil quality.  One harvest will differ from the next.   After the harvest, it’s the maltsters turn… Many grains are used in making whiskey, especially now that so much experimentation is being done to create craft whiskeys.  They can all be malted, but no grain has the diastatic power (enzyme power to convert starches to sugars) that barley has.  It is called the “workhorse grain” because it is often added to a mash in small amounts just for its wonderful...

What is Triticale Whiskey?

What is Triticale Whiskey?

We know that whiskey is made from grain.  A lot of new micro-distillers, in an effort to try something new and set themselves apart, are creating interesting artisanal whiskeys with odd-ball grain combinations.  Americans have grown comfortable with bourbon whiskey made with corn, rye whiskey made with rye, and malt whiskey made with barley.  But triticale whiskey?  What is that? Triticale is a hybrid of rye and wheat.  Rye is booming on the whiskey market today. (Rye whiskey is made of at least 51%rye in the grain recipe/mashbill.) Everyone is tripping over themselves to buy a bottle of the wheated bourbon that is Pappy Van Winkle. (A wheated bourbon usually has a dominance of corn -usually close to 70%- and uses wheat as a flavoring grain- usually 16%.)...

Which Rye Whiskey Should I Try?

Which Rye Whiskey Should I Try?

What ryes are out there and how are they different? I know I’ve talked about this in the past, but I got into a conversation with some folks yesterday about what ryes they should be trying. Many distilleries steer clear of making their own rye because of the production difficulties that rye grain can pose. Rye can be notoriously difficult to work with. Bruce Joseph, head distiller at Anchor Distilling, said, “Rye is a sticky, viscous, mess-a brewer’s nightmare.” It may be a bear to distill, but it makes a delicious whiskey and is only continuing to grow in popularity in the U.S. The original American ryes had high rye mashbills. Farmers in Pennsylvania in the late 18th and early 19th centuries were making their surplus harvested grains into whiskey. Though the...

Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle

Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle

  Everyone knows how hard it is to get their hands on a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon, but not many know who the man was on the label. “Pappy” Van Winkle (Julian Van Winkle, Sr.) began his whiskey career in 1893 when he became a salesman at W.L. Weller and Son.  He sold brand names such as Old W.L.Weller, Mammoth Cave, Hollis Rye, Cabin Still, Harlem Club, Silas B. Johnson and Stone Root Gin.  His time there was very educational and he soon became a very influential figure in the company.  In 1908, he and fellow salesman Alex Farnsley bought the Weller wholesale business after William Lerue Weller’s death.  W.L.Weller did not have a distillery of its own, but he was able to secure a contract with the Stitzel Distillery in Louisville.  Once Prohibition...

John Hall’s Forty Creek

John Hall’s Forty Creek

I have found that many of the new distillers in America have come to distilling from breweries and beer production. It’s a logical step, as “beer” must be brewed before whisky can be distilled from it. (I’ve always liked the saying, “Whisky is what beer wants to be when it grows up…”) Some distillers come to whisky with wine expertise as well. Why make cognac when you can make whisky, right? One such wine producer in Canada that has made the transition to whisky production is John Hall of Forty Creek Distillery. The international community is paying more attention to Canadian whisky largely because of Mr. Hall’s contributions to craft production. John Hall started making wine in the 1970’s and purchased Kittling Ridge Estates Winery in Grimsby, Ontario in...

Jim Murray’s World Whisky of the Year for 2016 goes to…

Jim Murray’s World Whisky of the Year for 2016 goes to…

So the news is out that Crown Royal’s Northern Harvest Rye was named the 2016 World Whisky of the Year by renowned whiskey writer Jim Murray. This news will most definitely affect sales for Crown Royal, but it may affect a bit more. Rye whiskey is making a comeback all over North America! Let’s be clear that the term “rye” does not carry the same definition in Canada as it does in the U.S. We know rye whiskey, here in America, to mean that at least 51% of the mashbill is made of rye grains. Original styles of rye whiskey grew out of Pennsylvania and Maryland and were crafted based upon which surplus grains farmers from those regions accumulated after their harvests. In Canada, the original style of whiskey produced there was made of wheat. Early in Canada’s...