There is serious Pennsylvania pride in play as new craft distillers suddenly bid to reclaim the state's historical place as America's rye whiskey mecca. But there is also family history in Dad's Hat Rye, a whiskey meant to evoke the taste of Herman Mihalich's grandfather favorite drink — and a staple in the family's tavern in Monessen, Pa., where Mihalich lived as a child upstairs. The year-old Mountain Laurel Spirits distillery he's created with old college chum and partner, John Cooper, is state of the art, despite the historic setting in a rehabbed woolen mill in downtown Bristol, which opens to the public this weekend for Saturday tours, tastings, and sales. What visitors will find is a an aged rye — debuting on the market this week alongside Dad's already available white spirit — that, unlike some of its super-spicy competition, shows restraint and balance.
Aged relatively swiftly for seven to nine months in 15 gallon barrels (versus the slower pace of standard 53 gallon barrels), the finished spirit is artfully blended to show rounded hints of cinnamon, dried fruits, nuts and candied apple, a rye that shouldn't be fussed with in overly complicated cocktails. Just a little ice — and a taste for local liquor history — will do. — Craig LaBan
Dad's Hat Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey, $38.99 (code 30408) in select Pennsylvania stores; Dad's Hat White Rye, $29.99 (code 30326) available online (www.finewineandgoodspirits.com), both sold Saturdays at the Mountain Laurel Spirits distillery, 925 Canal St., Bldg. #4, Bristol, 215-781-8300; www.dadshatrye.com