panel discussion

Replay: Rye Whiskey: America’s First Native Whiskey

Before there was bourbon, there was rye whiskey. The first whiskey style to take hold in America originated in the farmlands of the early west and grew up with the country. Though bourbon came behind it, rye kept a solid grip on drinkers’ palates for centuries until it was virtually wiped out by Prohibition and declining demand.

Now we’re in a rye renaissance, with distillers large and small creating and reviving unique expressions of rye.

In this chat, Susannah Skiver Barton, Whiskey expert and Spirits writer will explore the origins of rye whiskey in America with panelist Herman C. Mihalich, founder of Dad’s Hat Rye, and Beam Suntory Education Manager Bradford Lawrence.  They will also look at how rye whiskey shaped the country’s social, political and economic fortunes, and why it’s making a return now.

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Susannah Skiver Barton, Whiskey and Spirits expert
A veteran spirits journalist and seasoned whisky critic, Susannah Skiver Barton is a freelance writer and consultant to the spirits industry. She formerly served as Senior Editor at Whisky Advocate and Editor at Large at Market Watch. She’s a Certified Spirits Specialist and the winner of the 2020 Alan Lodge Young International Drinks Writer Award. More at
Special Guests:
Bradford Lawrence, Global Small Batch DNA & Education Manager, Beam Suntory
Bradford specializes in the protection and celebration of Beam’s iconic whiskey brands; their history and their stories. Bringing 21 years of industry and spirits expertise, Bradford started his career working and curating the back bars and whiskey lists of notable Philadelphia Pennsylvania institutions like Le Bec Fin, The Four Seasons Fountain Restaurant, and Mahogany on Walnut Whiskey Bar. Later to join the ranks of Beam Suntory, Bradford has been able to showcase his reverence and advocacy for the industry through varied and emerging projects culminating most recently in his leadership to pursue and design the revitalization of Overholt Rye, the longest continually maintained American whiskey brand in US history.
Herman C. Mihalich, Founder & Distiller, Dads Hat Rye
In a way, Herman Mihalich’s childhood in Monessen, Pennsylvania predicted his future as the founder of Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey. It was there, after all, living in an apartment above his family’s bar, where Mihalich experienced the sights, sounds and stories that would eventually inspire him to reintroduce the world to Pennsylvania’s once-rich rye whiskey producing heritage. Before coming full circle back to these roots, Mihalich made his mark as a Chemical Engineer. Of course, the fond memories of his father’s bar remained a constant in Herman’s life and ultimately led him to realize his life’s ambition in 2010, when he launched the Dad’s Hat distillery in Bristol. Many years have passed since Herman’s youth in that Western Pennsylvania town but he’s now exactly where he wants to be – carrying on a tradition close to his heart.