Whisky Advocate

Michter’s makes a move

July 7th, 2011

I grew up in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, in the same area of the original–and now defunct–Michter’s distillery. As many of you know, the last remaining bottles of Michter’s whiskey from this distillery was sold as Hirsch. The Michter’s name was sold to a company who has been selling both bourbon and rye whiskey under the Michter’s name, but the whiskey comes from an undisclosed source.

Well, the same company that has been selling whiskey under the Michter’s name made an announcement yesterday that they are actually going to build a distillery and call it Michter’s. Eventually, what is being sold as Michter’s will actually, once again, come from a distillery called Michter’s.

According to a press release I received last night, Michter’s plans to open a small production distillery in Louisville, KY. The new distillery will operate out of the historic Fort Nelson Building in downtown Louisville. The site is located on Louisville’s Museum Row across the street from the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory. The Nelson Building is rich in history and architecture.

The press release, which I will paraphrase from, goes on to tell a little of the history of the original distillery:  Established in Pennsylvania in the 1700s by farmer John Shenk, Michter’s Distillery was born for the purpose of converting excess grain into whiskey. Michter’s had its part in the Revolutionary War with General George Washington’s forces.

The operations in the new Louisville facility will be overseen by Willie Pratt, Michter’s Master Distiller. Willie has 40 years on the whiskey industry and, according to the press release, is said to be known as “Dr. No” because he will refuse to release whiskey for bottling until he feels it is just right (not because of his fondness for the James Bond character of the same name…); even if the whiskey is older than the label’s age statement. Read more about Willie Pratt here

The new Michter’s Distillery will eventually be open to the public for tours and tastings. (No timetable was given in the press release.)

This is all great news. It’s always a treat to see a new distillery open up, and it will be comforting to know that the whiskey named Michter’s will actually be distilled at a distillery called Michter’s.

52 Responses to “Michter’s makes a move”

  1. Mary says:

    This is exciting news for bourbon drinkers! But I guess we’ll probably have to wait years to taste real Michters….Sounds like they won’t be operational for at least a year & then there will be aging time – hopefully they truly won’t rush the aging. I’m willing to wait for the good stuff!

  2. Vince says:

    Nice to see more working distilleries opening up, especially one with such prestige as Michters. We’ll have to wait for years but I am a patient man!

  3. Wade Woodard says:

    call me a skeptic. IMHO, they are just cashing on in on a name. This will not be the Michters as in Pennsylvania – it will just be just another craft distiller.

  4. John Hansell says:

    Time will tell, everyone. Let’s hope for the best.

  5. Toby Belch says:

    Wade is right, they are cashing in on a name. And even the name is not very old. If I recall correctly, it’s an awkward combination of the names Michael and Peter, two sons of some guy a few decades ago who tried to revive the old distillery. So the connection between a Michter’s distillery in Louisville and anything going back to the 18th century is about as close as the connection between me and Adam and Eve.

    All this said, it is a good thing that somebody wants to restore a decrepit but architecturally interesting old building and turn it into an attraction. I saw the video of the Louisville Mayor and the Governor of Kentucky announcing the project. They hyped it more than I would expect for a project that will generate all of 10 jobs, about the same as a new Subway. As for the whiskey, it might not be bad once it is ready for sale. But, as Wade says, it will be just another micro distiller. I doubt that Dr. No knows anything about distillation that Harlen Wheatley does not. And Harlen already has his own microstill. Up and running. On a site where distillation has taken place for 200 years.

    But why should I be so catty? It will be great fun if, in 10 years or so, I can go to this place, take a tour, and taste a decent whiskey in a very agreeable environment. Nobody stands to lose from a deal like that.

    • Ryan says:

      “…the Louisville Mayor and the Governor of Kentucky announcing the project. They hyped it more than I would expect for a project that will generate all of 10 jobs, about the same as a new Subway.”

      Do Subway restaurants in Louisville internationally distribute sandwiches with “Louisville, KY” printed on their wrappers? And what are the tax revenue (City and State) differences between a delicatessen, a distillery, and the products they sell? I bet the Mayor and Governor know.

  6. American distilleries and brands can be very confusing. The fact that a company can have a Michter’s distillery and also have a Michter’s Whisky and the content of the latter is not necesarily from the first is confusing

    SWA got rules for this :

    “The name of a distillery mentioned in Schedule 1 must not be used as a brand name, or
    as part of a brand name of a Scotch Whisky, or be used in a similar fashion in terms of its
    positioning or prominence, unless the whisky has been wholly distilled at that distillery. ”

    Adding to that they will use the name of a distillery that was located in Pennsylvania and producing “recently” (= Its whisky is still available), will add to future confusion

    I hope they decide for a new unique name

    Steffen

  7. sam k says:

    The Michter’s name is a venerable, albeit relatively modern one, coming to fruition in the mid 1950s as the brainchild of Louis Forman, a man who had a very clear vision for a new and distinctive brand, if not necessarily a new distillery. It was indeed a combination of his sons’ names (I disagree that it is necessarily awkward), and sounded just “Pennsylvania Dutch” enough to work in the touristy destination of Lebanon County.

    The distillery that eventually became associated with the brand had a long and venerable history, stretching from at least 1753 to February 14, 1990. Its eventual and inevitable demise was due to a combination of both uncontrollable market influences and absolutely predictable human egos in the form of later, multiple owners of questionable character.

    Unfortunately, the current owners continue to perpetuate rumors of absolutely no substance, one being that George Washington and his troops had any connection to the site. That falsehood stems solely from a fanciful commemorative coin struck by the Lebanon Valley Coin Club during the 1970s depicting Washington at Schaefferstown. Michter’s did indeed use the slogan “The Whiskey That Warmed the Revolution” during that same period, simply emphasizing that the product from that location would have been available before and during the Revolutionary War, but making no other claim, ever, about any connection to Washington himself.

    Then second is that the distillery established by John Shenk in 1753 was America’s first “Whiskey Company.” I challenge current ownership of the brand to provide proof of either of these vacuous claims. These falsehoods should be dropped immediately if the brand is to be taken seriously in the future by discerning whiskey aficionados. I hope they are reading, because there are many who are watching that will not tolerate the continuation of this deception, intentional or otherwise. Too much is at stake.

    That said, I am pleased that the brand will indeed be tied to a dedicated distillery once again, even though it should be in Pennsylvania (sigh!), not Kentucky. I wish them all the best and will give them the benefit of the doubt pending release of their own-distilled whiskeys. The products they’ve sourced from others have been encouraging. I look forward to trying them, and hope that the current owners will endeavor to be be more transparent about the historical facts relating to the once-respected brand they now represent.

  8. kallaskander says:

    Hi there,

    that is interesting. Only two or three years ago the name Michter’s and the brand as well was associated with Even Kulsveen, Bardstown Kentucky. You still can find entries on “mystery marketing whiskey” in older forum posts such as straightbourbon.com on that fact. “In July, 2002, he registered “Michter’s American Whiskey Co.” as one of the many assumed names of his “Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, Ltd.”
    On the KBD site the Michter’s brand has vanished afaik. They sold it on to Chatham most probably. It is not clear – of course – what KBD bottled as Michter’s. It was whiskey bought in bulk in most cases but could have been Willet stuff produced in the old but revived Willet distillery in Bardstown produced after renovation in some cases.
    Now a new Michter’s company is formed. Nothing to say against that.
    On the othe hand it could have been the other way round that Chatham licensed the name to KBD.

    Greetings
    kallaskander

    • DavidG says:

      I don’t beleive KBD/Willett is actually producing any bourbon – they are still sourcing product.

  9. “But, as Wade says, it will be just another micro distiller.”

    Gee, guess we don’t like micro-distillers. Not that there isn’t a new “single-barrel”, “special batch”, “our Master Distiller’s own”, etc pumped out by the majors all vying for the whiskey connoisseurs dollars. :-)

    It’ll be interesting to see what they create in downtown Louisville. I think that’s a lot of fun. They probably won’t be able to produce a lot of whiskey there, so too bad they won’t be able to age a dozen or three barrels there too. And they could well sell the whiskey made at this one location as the Michter’s Special Reserve for a markup. And this is simply the truth of how things are done.

    • sam k says:

      Good thoughts, Cheryl, which make me wonder if this will be a column still or pot still operation. The building seems to have the height necessary for a column. Plus, where will they warehouse the aging whiskey? Doubtless not in downtown Louisville.

      I’m starting to see Louisville as the American equivalent of Campbeltown. Once a major distilling center that has languished, but now seeing a rebirth with the recent news about Louisville Distilling and now Michter’s. Pretty cool situation, actually.

      • John Hansell says:

        Excellent analogy, Sam!

      • Thomas Mckenzie says:

        They could put in a small column still and make a pretty good amount of good bourbon. A pot is not always the BEST way to get the job done.

        • sam k says:

          Heck, they could actually get Michter’s original column, which is still set up in the old distillery. 55 feet high and five feet in diameter, with plates spaced 30 inches apart throughout. That would make the whole thing a bit more legit and give them a physical tie to the true history of the brand.

          I hope they at least think about it!

    • Ryan says:

      Precisely Cheryl. The obvious rhetorical response is, “If consumer attitudes toward craft distillation are blasé, then why is every industrial distiller peddling narratives that invoke craft distillation?” Note the absence of craft distillers obscuring their artisanal efforts by invoking thoroughly modern, industrialized, mechanized, efficiency-driven, multinational/transnational widget factory narratives.

      • Red_Arremer says:

        Nice comment Ryan. There are narratives about money-saving widget factories, but they are reserved for pitches to the board of directors…

  10. Wade Woodard says:

    My comment was not intended to be negative towards craft micro distillers – lots of craft distillers doing things right and making some good stuff.

    This current Michters (Chatham Imports) brand has not distilled a single drop of whiskey on their own, yet they have the governor of KY giving them accolades at a press event. `Right now, they are just another bulk whiskey bottler. When/If they get up in running in Louisville, then they will be a craft distillery – and it will be years before they have anything good to sale. And it still will not have anything to do with the original Michters or the made up history behind it.

    • Toby Belch says:

      True enough, Wade, there are micro distillers making good products. For example, I like what Koval is doing in Chicago. Then there are the instantly minted “master distillers” who may not yet have had time to read the instruction manuals for their new stills. Or guys like Rick Wasmund who think they invented the process of putting wood chips into a barrel. (This has been done for years in Cognac, it’s called “boise”. It’s perfectly legal, but the cognac houses rarely talk about it because it is considered an embarrassment.)

      I think it’s great that lots of folks are setting up stills these days. Some interesting new products have already come from them, and others will certainly follow. As will countless duds. But I object to the premise that micro distillers (aka craft distillers, artisanal distillers) are in a position to produce great products just because they are so small. Let’s not forget that most micro distillers are new to the trade. They have neither the experience nor the resources of the established distillers.

      So with micro distillers, it’s hit or miss. Hopefully, Michter’s in Lousiville will be a hit. And to Cheryl, don’t be so sensitive! Perhaps your products are (or will be) a hit, too. Good luck to you!

      • Ryan says:

        “But I object to the premise that micro distillers (aka craft distillers, artisanal distillers) are in a position to produce great products JUST because they are so small.”

        Umm… craft distillers would share your objection because that’s all kinds of fallacy, not a premise.

        • Toby Belch says:

          Ryan,

          Rarely do I find a micro distiller website that does not tout the small size of the operation, the “hand made” products (whatever that means), the single barrels, etc. For example, the very first words on Cheryl Lins’ Delaware Phoenix Distillery website are, “A little distillery in upstate New York making hand-crafted whiskey and absinthes in a 45 gallon Christian Carl pot still.” So, yes, micro distillers do promote the idea that smallness implies high quality. Yet there is no known connection between the size of a distillery and the quality of its products. For example, the 23 year old Pappy Van Winkle, that folks will kill for, once poured out of a giant column still in Louisville. What really matters is not the size of the still or the use of hands in the production process. What matters is the skill and experience of the distillers. And in that category, the big boys have an enormous advantage.

          Nonetheless, I’m glad that relative amateurs are tinkering around with small stills these days. I’ve seen some great products from them. For example, the MB Roland Distillery’s Black Dog. Right here in Kentucky.

          • Thanks for the mention Toby! I just wanted to say that in my own promotion I think I’m being honest when I say I’m a little distillery because I am! I guess someone could argue about whether what I make is hand-crafted or not, or if larger distilleries produce hand-crafted products or not. At what size, say in gallons of production per year, does a distillery go from being “small” to “large”, or having “hand-crafted” products to “industrial” ones? I don’t have an answer to that, and each person will probably have they own ideas about it. Even Maker’s Mark says on the label that their whiskey is handmade. 1,000,000 9 liter cases per year, that’s almost 2.4 million gallons.

  11. Ryan says:

    Since you disapprove of their previously existing state of affairs, this relocation, their future potential, and their integrity; what could they do to please you?

  12. John Parker says:

    Always nice to have more bourbon available. I will drink my 16 year old Hirsch tonight with a Joya de Nicaragua cigar to celebrate the news. I still think it should of opened in Pennsylvania, I grew up 15 miles from the original location.

  13. The Bitter Fig says:

    If the whisky winds up being good and widely enough distributed, that’s good in itself.

    However, that this new place is being called Mitchers just seems like trying to exploit a history it shares no part of. Like if Diageo opened a new distillery called St. Magdalen outside Aberdeen. Regardless of the ultimate quality of the whisky, it just seems like trading on a classic name in a way that’s just cheap. I guess the Gimli, Manitoba distillery for Crown Royal gets a bit of a pass, but at least with that it was the ‘same’ people, the ‘same’ process, the ‘same’ whisky.

  14. Gary Gillman says:

    My suggestion here is to recreate Michter’s Original Sour Mash Whiskey, the most successful and interesting of the post-Repeal products from this storied distillery in my opinion. According to Michael Jackson’s World Guide To Whisky (1988), this “proprietary” straight whiskey was 50% rye, 38% corn, the rest barley malt. Thus, a hybrid style, but what one could view as a variation on a straight rye. Many here will recall this rich but mild-tasting whiskey, it was 6 years old and had a rounded, “golden” character (I don’t know how else to say it). I think too aging in a relatively cool climate may have affected the palate, but I believe the whiskey can be recreated in Kentucky. I wish the new owners well and would encourage them to focus on this mash bill or something close to it, which was the basis of one of the great, lost whiskeys of post-1945.

    Gary

    • John Hansell says:

      Good point, Gary. It’s sad that they aren’t keeping the distilling in PA, but it would be very honorable of them to try to replicate the mashbill.

  15. “And to Cheryl, don’t be so sensitive! Perhaps your products are (or will be) a hit, too. Good luck to you!”

    I don’t think I’m being sensitive Toby simply realistic. As John and Sam K (and Chuck on his blog) point out, Michter’s is simply a brand of Chatham, that does not have a distillery of it’s own. Great that they’re getting a distillery. Will this be big enough to fulfill the current Michter’s production? Maybe it talks more about that in the press release, but it doesn’t seem like it.

    On “just another craft distiller” I understand the sentiment that there’s some uneven products out there from small producers. But hopefully people will look for the more interesting offerings and find the things that they like, even if they’re not the same as what’s produced by the majors. An open mind and palate is all I ask of people.

    As Ryan and others point out, most of the majors and all of the small distillers, want to harken back to the era of the small (farmer) distiller, or some other time, along with their pot stills and simple methods. Even though nearly all of them use column stills (continuous or batch). They might use bulk enzymes instead of enzymes from grain. Etc. Don’t know too many distilleries at all that use a pot still without a column. The pot still went out of fashion in America by the 1870′s-1880′s. I had a still producer say on ADI that pot stills were “obsolete”.

    I don’t think that small distilleries by definition will be better, whatever that means. I think they have the potential for producing interesting spirits, whiskey and others that will be worthwhile and worth seeking out. But that being said, there’s a lot of good bourbon being made and some of it can be a very good value. But I know I’ll never be able to trot out a Mayor, Governor, and other notables, have instant distribution of whatever I made (whether good or not) and a host of other built-in advantages that the majors and the distributors have. I’m not whining about that, simply stating the facts and truth of the matter.

    • Toby Belch says:

      Cheryl,

      Thank you for the insightful and honest comments! You and other micro distillers are certainly contributing to the diversity of distilled spirits on the market today. Good for you! And should I see one of your products on a store shelf, I’ll buy it and try it. (I’ll be in Buffalo NY later in the month. But your website does not show availability there yet.)

      You are right that even the major distillers like to harken back to the good old days of farmer distillers. Jim Beam implies it follows the practices of the family progenitor going back to the late 18th century. (And Michter’s claims to go back even further.) Yet this misplaced nostalgia is just so much marketing nonsense. The stills of today (even the pot stills) are so much more advanced. The understanding of farming techniques, microbiology, and whiskey aging is so much greater than in the good old days when Farmer Joe (or Evan or Jacob) sat by his crude still hoping for the best. The fact is that whiskey drinkers today would be no better off drinking whiskey from the old farmer-distiller days than drivers would be better off driving Model T cars.

      You are, almost certainly, making better distilled spirits than any produced in the 19th century or earlier. And I strongly suspect you are using at least some techniques not known even a generation ago.

      Keep up the good work! I’ll bet there are easier ways to make a living than by operating a small distillery. So it must be a labor of love.

      • Thanks Toby. My products aren’t in Buffalo, as I’m the one who delivers to the retailer.

        I agree that Oscar Pepper and Dr. James Crow would be envious of my modern made German pot still. I take advantage of a nice digital thermometer instead of putting my hand in the mash until it’s “milk warm”.

        I’m sure all of us would love to have the chance to taste the good whiskey of 100 or 150 years ago. I suspect that the common whiskey (or spirits in general) may not have been so good.

        So I hope the Michter’s folks go make some really good whiskey at their little distillery in Lousiville. It can only promote the industry and the spirit we all fancy so much (whether that’s scotch, bourbon, rye, etc).

      • Red_Arremer says:

        Science has not advanced the quality of whisky in the same way that it has advanced that of cars, Toby. Craft methods of creating things are generally less efficient and require a higher level of personal engagement from producers (observation, patience strength, dexterity, experience), but they do not necessarily produce inferior products– They may actually produce superior products. Check out some of the famous Cathedrals in Europe, or some of the better jade carvings from ancient China for insight into this. Take a look at Dave Broom’s article comparing the Shackleton whisky to Richard Patterson’s recreation of it to see how the same paradigm applies to whisky…

        • Toby Belch says:

          Red, The analogy between whiskey and automobiles is not perfect. No analogy is. Yet extraordinary advances have been made in our understanding of the technology and the microbiology of whiskey making just as extraordinary advances have been made in the technology of automobile design and production. And, from my observation, the major distillers are very personally involved in their products, also making use of patience, strength, dexterity and experience. So there is no necessary connection between the size of a distillery and the quality of its products. In that sense, there is no reason why micro distillers would produce inferior products any more than there is a reason why they would product superior products just because of their size. The micro distillers, however, operate under a significant disadvantage in that they usually lack the experience and the resources of the major distillers.

          As for cathedrals, yes, there is no known way to produce sculpture and stained glass except by hand. Not even today. But cathedral building projects during the Middle Ages were big, industrial enterprises (for their times). How else would you rebuild Chartres Cathedral in just 30 years?

          • Red_Arremer says:

            Not sure why you only fielded my reference to Cathedrals and ignored those to jade and whisky. In fact, sci/tech breakthroughs since the dark ages have greatly altered the production of stone buildings, stone sculptures, and windows/stained glass.

            Point is that it was entirely possible to create really nice things hundreds of years ago and that this applies to whisky.

            I was not implying that so called “craft distillers” today are using production methods that are closer to some set of traditional techniques.

          • So what does it mean to use traditional techniques? And of what time frame? Most craft brewers use modern equipment and mashing protocols, produce fairly original beer styles, though some are based on historical models and they don’t get quotes around their craft status.

            There’s all these biases in American whiskey, such as you must use new charred oak barrels for named whiskies such as rye whiskey, bourbon, etc. Yet the Scots seem to do quite well with used barrels, and prior to Prohibition there were brands aging their whiskey in used barrels. Youth in whiskey seems to be reviled, no matter the quality of the whiskey. Perhaps this is a reflex based on the poor quality and quick production of spirits during Prohibition, but it’s not a general truth. Since American whiskey got a lot older (and oakier) in the whiskey depression of the 70′s and 80′s it behooved the large producers to promote that age. This isn’t to say that older whiskey can’t be good or great either, but the current bias is for older whiskey with a lot more oak. But that certainly wasn’t traditional.

          • Toby Belch says:

            Red and Cheryl,

            (Red – I ignored your comment about jade since I know absolutely nothing about it. But we should probably not get diverted into jade and cathedrals on a whiskey blog.)

            I agree with Red that skillful and motivated craftspeople down through the ages have made some great things, perhaps including whiskey. They did the best they could with the knowledge and materials available to them. I’d love to taste some farmer-distiller whiskey of the late 18th century. But I strongly suspect it was not of the quality of Cheryl’s Rye Dog. Cheryl has so much more knowledge and technology available to her.

            As for the “biases” that Cheryl mentions regarding bourbon and rye production, I think the biases are a very good thing. They insure that bourbon and rye are distinctive products. At the same time, distillers like Cheryl are free to make whiskey of any style they wish. They need not follow the “biases” as long as they do not use terms like “straight bourbon” or “straight rye” on their labels. And, of course, the Scots have their own biases. They think that single malt whiskey must be made with 100% barley malt, and it can only be distilled in a pot still. But those biases are good, because they, too, insure a distinctive product that consumers can easily recognize.

            Interestingly enough, the Canadians have adopted the other approach. Hardly any biases at all in their regulations. Canadian distillers may even add up to 9% flavorings (like bourbon!). As a result of this freestyle approach, most Canadian whiskies are not distinctive at all.

            I’m all for experimentation, and micro distillers are doing a lot of it now. Some distillers will make it, some will not. Either way, whiskey drinkers will be better off from the distillers’ efforts.

          • I know John in on to Ardbeg Alligator, so I don’t want to belabor anything further on this, but there’s been a lot of good discussion.

            Re: additives, generally bourbon may not have any additives other than what was given by the oak while the other named types can have up to 2.5% by weight (I think) harmless blending materials. In the old days these were either fruit juices or whiskey tinctures of fruit, tea, etc. I understand the Maryland rye whiskey producers were fond of these kinds of additions.

            Anyway, on the the Ardbeg!

          • Toby Belch says:

            Yes, some good discussion. But we are now on to alligator whiskey. I’ll fall silent because I don’t like whiskey that smells like railroad ties. For those who do, however, enjoy!

  16. Gary Gillman says:

    I agree, John. It’s the replication of what the original Michter’s did at its best that is important in the view of many, not the location. And of course this can extend to other styles, since Michter’s/Pennco also made straight rye, bourbon and other styles. Still, Original Sour Mash was the flagship, the own-name brand of renown. That is the key to the restoration, again in my view.

    Correction to the mash bill I stated earlier: Original Sour Mash was in fact 50% corn, 38% rye, the remainder barley malt. But certainly a rye-heavy mashbill and one that pleased many at the time.

    Gary

  17. sam k says:

    I just now enlarged the photo. That sure is a pretty building!

  18. Ethan Smith says:

    I’m still not sure how I feel about all this yet. I see both sides to all of this. Being an original PA Michter’s guy, to hear how the “new” Michter’s owners are marketing the product line hurts a bit. I won’t rehash what Sam already said because his sentiments are mine also. However, I do like to see the Michter’s name still in use. I just bought the American Whiskey, Bourbon, and Rye for $122 at my local “State Store” this morning. I have a friend that is trying to buy the column still and remaining equipment from the Schaefferstown site, but the new owners are so far being unreceptive to most everyone that contacts them. We’ll see what happens there.

    As a side note, Dick Stoll (The last REAL Michter’s Master Distiller) and I have a hunch that the Michter’s US1 American Whiskey is the equivalent of the Michter’s Sour Mash Whiskey of Michter’s Distillery in Schaefferstown. Note on the label of the American Whiskey that it is a straight whiskey that was aged in “bourbon soaked barrels.” This fits the Sour Mash Whiskey that Michter’s Distillery was making in Schaefferstown. Drinking the two side-by-side yields some pretty radical differences, but there certainly is a certain resemblance. Again, just a hunch coming from 2 guys that are DSP-PA-17 loyalists……..

  19. Gary Gillman says:

    I recall reading somewhere that Original Sour Mash Whiskey may have employed some used bourbon barrel aging, which would provide an analogy to US1 American Whiskey which presumably is aged in such barrels. However, I recall the taste of Original Sour Mash Whiskey being quite different and much more like a straight rye or rye-heavy bourbon. In other words, if there was such mixed cooperage, the new charred barrel taste (and effects) predominated. Jackson states in the World Guide To Whisky that its taste was “gingery”, a description in my view of the high rye content. In a perfect world I’d like to see the line-up from 30 years ago still available, but it is good to see the name still in the marketplace and hopefully the new venture will bring the products closer to what they were in the heyday of the Schaefferstown operation.

    Gary

    • sam k says:

      The Schaefferstown operation did indeed use a percentage of used cooperage in each dump, though knowing that they made a lot of rye whiskey, too, it could easily have included those barrels as well as bourbon.

      Yet another reason Michter’s was never labeled as a “straight” product. Plus, that 50% corn thing (and that’s an accurate number according to Dick Stoll) has always baffled me.

  20. Ethan Smith says:

    One thing I’ve never understood with the current products is the strange proofs at which it is bottled.

  21. Gary Gillman says:

    I thought Everett Beam had come up with that formulation in the 1950′s.

    Gary

  22. Ethan Smith says:

    Everett Beam and Louis Forman came up with it together. I have an old newspaper clipping where Mr. Beam says he helped create Michter’s whiskey. My guess is Louis Forman came up with an idea for the whiskey and had a rough idea of what he wanted it to be and Everett Beam came up with the actual mashbill and process. Dick Stoll made mention to me that some early Michter’s may have actually been Kirk’s Pure Rye that they didn’t know what to do with when Pennco took over. A 1984 inventory sheet from Michter’s shows that they were still aging several types of whiskey:

    Sam Thompson Rye
    Pennco Rye
    Pennco Bourbon
    Michter’s Sour Mash Whiskey (New cooperage)
    Michter’s Sour Mash Whiskey (Used cooperage)
    Michter’s Corn Whiskey (Used cooperage)
    Michter’s Whiskey Distilled From Rye Mash (Used cooperage)
    “Heublein” Sour Mash Whiskey (Used cooperage)
    “Ivanoff” Sour Mash Whiskey (Used cooperage)
    “Ivanoff” Whiskey Distilled From Rye Mash (Used cooperage)
    “Hirsch” Bourbon
    Coffee Liqueur
    Raisin Brandy

    That being said, not only was Beam busy with making Michter’s, he also made a lot of other products we love. As an interesting note, all main distillation seems to have ceased in 1980. It appears only the small pot stills operated after that.

    • sam k says:

      So by the time they closed,the youngest whiskey in a bottle marked “six years old” was no younger than nine years old. Maybe that’s why it was so damn good by the end.

      Interesting inventory, and a very high percentage of used cooperage. That probably increased as time went on so that, at the end, they may well have bottled a lot of 10+ year old whiskey aged in mostly used cooperage. Sounds Scottish to me!

      • Ethan Smith says:

        Most fill dates listed on my sheet are from 1969-1979 with the bulk in 1974 and 1976. And this list was made in January 1984 showing an inventory of whiskey worth just shy of 1 million dollars.

      • I’m sure John will know (or someone else if not he) when the Scots began using ex-bourbon barrels in large numbers. So long as the Scots were using sherry barrels, the bourbon and rye whiskey producers had lots of extra dumped barrels with nowhere to go. So there were more products aged in used cooperage. There’s evidence from Dave Ziegler of Kinsey also producing whiskies aged in used cooperage.

        • sam k says:

          I remember when whiskey barrels were so prolific that you could buy them for $20 during the whiskey glut of the late 70s through mid 80s. People would buy them and cut them in half for planters, and charge $20 per planter. A good profit in the day!

          • sam k says:

            Thinking about it, I guess that means that used American cooperage was not in common use in Scotland around that time, so those years may well have been the cusp of their being accepted for secondary use in Scotland. Can we say late 80s, perhaps, for their widespread acceptance overseas?

            Anyone…Bueller?

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