Michter's Distillery

Talk about Tennessee, American and Rye Whiskey here.

Moderators: Brewer, brendaj

Unread postby EllenJ » Tue Sep 12, 2006 8:23 pm

Thanks, Gary. We all try to offer whatever point(s) of view we can, and you are certainly a major contributor yourself. Hopefully, the readers of Bourbon Enthusiast can discern the difference between the limited amount of documentable history (such as Mike Veach provides) and the various educated ideas of you, me, Chuck, at least a couple or three other Mikes (including Dr. V when he's only guessing too), and several more. This is a labor of love (well, maybe "pathelogical obsession" is a more accurate term) for all of us here. :D

... uh, perhaps.
Let me restate that in a more PC way...
My personal opinion, which might not be accurate, is that this is, or may seem to be, a labor of love, or of some similar emotion, to, perhaps all, but arguably at least some of the people here. :P :P
-------------------------------------------------------
This is a point of view I am offering at this time.
But it can change.
If it has to.
I think.
=JOHN=
(the "Jaye" part of "L 'n' J dot com")
http://www.ellenjaye.com
User avatar
EllenJ
Registered User
 
Posts: 867
Joined: Sun Feb 26, 2006 11:00 pm
Location: Ohio-occupied Northern Kentucky (Cincinnati)

Unread postby gillmang » Wed Sep 13, 2006 12:13 pm

John, now you're sounding like a lawyer. :)

By the way you'd have made a good one (that's a compliment!).

Gary
User avatar
gillmang
Vatman
 
Posts: 2138
Joined: Mon Jan 24, 2005 4:44 pm

Unread postby bourbonv » Thu Sep 14, 2006 6:37 pm

Gary,
I love it. The lawyer who does not mind poking a little fun at himself with a disclaimer on a compliment! I bet that sense of humor makes you a better lawyer, because I believe it makes you a better person.


I went into the archive at Stitzel-Weller today. I got there about a half hour early and hoped to do a little research. What I found is that it going to take a lot of research. Unfortunately the volumes I wanted to start with are located on shelve about 12 feet up for 1942 correspondence and about 30 feet up for the 1950's. No ladder and just a cherry picker. Since I no longer work there, I was sure if I used the cherry picker, their insurance company would have a cow if they found out and I had no desire to upset anyone so I looked for other sources. They have company minute books from all of the subsiduary companies owned by Schenley. It seems Chuck or John mentioned the company that Schenley used to administer the distillery, but nothing I saw rang a bell. I looked in some trade publications that had brief histories of companies for Publiker and Pennco but did not expect to find anything that was not already known. I was just beginning to search a Who's Who in the Liquor Industry (1964) to see if I could find Hirsch, Foreman or any other name tha might shed some light on the subject, when the Diageo people came by early as well.

What I did find is that I am going to need a few hours in the archive to begin a search. There is a shelf and a half of correspondence volumes for 1942 alone. I think that is the place to start since we know Schenley invested money in the plant that year. The correspondence might lead us to who was involved in the negotiations and when they took place. Since there is no index and everything is simply chronological in arrangement, dates are vital to finding out more about the Bramburger distillery. It is simply going to take hours to find a beginning to the correspondence trail. Unfortunately, Hirsch was not a big enough chief to have his correspondence bound seperately.

The good news is I met the new plant manager and she has invited me to visit anytime I wish if I give a day or two notice to provide the cherry picker.
Mike Veach
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873
User avatar
bourbonv
Registered User
 
Posts: 4070
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2004 7:17 pm
Location: Louisville, Ky.

Unread postby gillmang » Sun Sep 17, 2006 10:41 pm

Thanks Mike. I wish you well with this intriguing, ongoing research.

Sorry by the way I missed you at the party in Bardstown on Saturday. By the time we got finished with the Gala, there just wasn't time to attend that and also spend time at the last Gazebo of the weekend. And I did need to do that to bring out some whiskeys I had promised to some there, e.g., an NDOT and a Rittenhouse BIB distilled (per back label) at no. 354 in Louisville, i.e., at Early Times. Clearly this was made during the hiatus between the fire at HH and the purchase of Bernheim. It was very good by the way and struck me as less intense in flavor than the DSP 31 Rittenhouse and possibly better balanced. Maybe too, being BIB, it was just that batch...

Mike, another time, hopefully in company of John.

It was nice to meet Gayle Hack during the weekend although there was no time to talk.

I did see Brenda at Gazebo later who told me more about the Early Times tour.

Gary
User avatar
gillmang
Vatman
 
Posts: 2138
Joined: Mon Jan 24, 2005 4:44 pm

Unread postby cowdery » Wed Sep 20, 2006 9:03 pm

Here is a summary of what I have learned about Hirsch and Michter’s since the Reader story was published. I have been promised more information. I will follow-up on the story in the next Reader, which will come out in October, but here are the bare facts.

First, the new sources.

Steve Fox, national sales manager for Preiss Imports, supplied two key documents, a hand-written profile of A. H. Hirsch, written by Hirsch’s wife in 1989, and a 1988 warehouse receipt for "19 barrels of bourbon.” (Attached) Fox also gave me some information verbally.

Mary Steckbeck, the daughter of C. Everett Beam, provided access to newspaper clippings saved by her father during his career in Schaefferstown.

Hirsch’s story.

Adolph Hirsch was born in Mannheim, a city in the southwestern part of Germany, on June 5, 1908. He came to the United States in March of 1926 (age 17). His first job in the U.S. was with A. G. Becker, a large investment bank in Chicago, Illinois. He worked there until 1934, when he became vice-president of the Bernheim Distillery in Louisville (age 26), then owned by two veteran Chicago whiskey brokers, Emil Schwarzhaupt and Leo Gerngross.

In 1937, Schwarzhaupt and Gerngross sold Bernheim to Schenley. Hirsch stayed on with the new owners and was transferred to New York City to run the Bernheim Division from there. He left Schenley in December, 1941 (age 33).

In 1942, Hirsch and three partners acquired the Pennsylvania Distilling Company, which they renamed the Logansport Distilling Company. This is the company that bought the Schaefferstown distillery from Louis Forman. Bourbon whiskey was their principal product.

In November, 1946, Logansport was sold to Schenley, which Hirsch rejoined, staying until March, 1947, when he retired (at age 38) to pursue “charitable activity.” In April, 1956, he rejoined Schenley as Executive Vice President and moved back to New York. In July, 1960 he retired for good (at age 52).

In 1958, Hirsch succeeded Leo Gerngross as president of the Emil Schwarzhaupt Foundation, a position he held until at least December 31, 1978. The Foundation promotes American citizenship, "especially among the foreign-born."

When, in 1989, his wife wrote the brief profile of his life , they were living in Grand Rapids, Michigan. At the bottom of the sheet is written the year “1974,” below which is the following statement:

"Mr. Hirsch is extremely proud of the high quality and character of this stock of bourbon, and would be pleased to have his name associated with the product."

The Warehouse Receipt

Included with the biographical sketch is a warehouse receipt from "Pennsylvania Sour Mash Distillery Inc., DBA Michter’s Distillery." It is receipt number 207, dated June 6, 1988. The receipt was issued to "Adolph H. Hirsch and Buddy L. Hirsch" for 19 barrels of bourbon produced by Pennco Distillers Inc, with serial numbers 74B 2732 to 74B 2750, on February 27, 1974. Entry proof is shown as 115 and the total volume in proof gallons (for tax purposes) is shown as 1,135.

Warehouse receipts were negotiable instruments. In other words, you transferred ownership of the whiskey by transferring possession of the receipt.

The C. E. Beam clippings file

From the Lebanon Press & Journal, a long feature story about the Schaefferstown distillery dated May 12, 1966.

The name is Pennco.

It is the only independent distillery in Pennsylvania.

It mashes 750 bushels of grain a day, producing 60 barrels of whiskey a day.

It has one bonded warehouse that holds 60,000 barrels.

It uses attrition mills and a continuous still. Proof of distillation is 150. Proof of entry is 110 to 120.

Pennco acquired it in 1957. Pennco is a closed corporation from Philadelphia. Its president is Samuel Glass. The plant manager is George Shattls. One of the company’s brands is Robert Morris Rye.

From an October, 1971, clipping.

Pennco’s president is Louis Forman. The company is building a bottling house. It has just resumed production, after being closed for 18 months. The company is making raisin brandy, which is used for the fortification of fortified wines such as sherry and port.

From a 1957 newspaper advertisement.

Some of the company’s products are Old Vandegrift, Pennco Rye Bond, Pennco’s 86 Rye, and Uniontown.

From a 1961 clipping.

Commemorating barrel number 50,000. Only independently-operated distillery in Pennsylvania.
Attachments
Warehouse Receipt.PDF
(280.21 KiB) Downloaded 400 times
Last edited by cowdery on Thu Sep 21, 2006 12:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
- Chuck Cowdery

Author of Bourbon, Straight
User avatar
cowdery
Registered User
 
Posts: 1586
Joined: Tue Oct 19, 2004 1:07 pm
Location: Chicago

Unread postby Bourbon Joe » Thu Sep 21, 2006 8:17 am

Very interesting Chuck. It looks like some of the pieces of the puzzle are coming together.
Joe
Colonel Joseph B. "Bourbon Joe" Koch

Bourbon, It's cheaper than therapy!
User avatar
Bourbon Joe
Erudite Bourbonite
Erudite Bourbonite
 
Posts: 1835
Joined: Tue Aug 16, 2005 4:02 pm
Location: Eastern Pennsylvania

Unread postby gillmang » Thu Sep 21, 2006 1:05 pm

Yes, and I found that reference to raisin brandy very interesting. In the 1860's, Byrn in his practical distilling text advised adding a spirit made from raisins to new rye whiskey to give it a "vinous" taste. Clearly this article, raisin brandy, was a staple of traditional distilling and used for various purposes including those mentioned in the 1971 story. Despite all the changes wrought by Prohibition, technology, etc., somehow the knowledge of this obscure distillate lived on. Probably wine makers making sherry and port in CA had commissioned it from distillers and retained even through Prohibition and the wars the knowledge and know-how of its use so as to instruct distillers when they needed supply.

Gary
User avatar
gillmang
Vatman
 
Posts: 2138
Joined: Mon Jan 24, 2005 4:44 pm

Unread postby cowdery » Thu Sep 21, 2006 6:44 pm

Mary Steckbeck, Everett Beam's daughter, told a funny story. She was visiting her father at about this time, in the early 70s, and he was very excited about something new he had made. He gave her a taste and she was appalled. She was no stranger to her father's products and this stuff was terrible. She wondered if he had lost his mind, or at least his touch. It was this raisin brandy, which is not intended to be consumed in its own right, but only as an ingredient in fortified wine.
- Chuck Cowdery

Author of Bourbon, Straight
User avatar
cowdery
Registered User
 
Posts: 1586
Joined: Tue Oct 19, 2004 1:07 pm
Location: Chicago

Unread postby gillmang » Thu Sep 21, 2006 7:57 pm

Now that's funny.

But it wasn't a new product really.

In Portugal I know, they use a relatively neutral grape spirit to fortify port wine. As far as I know it is made from grapes, not raisins.

Why would they use raisins, not grapes, in the U.S.? Hard to say. Maybe the extra flavor from raisins was appreciated to add heft to pallid or funky North American wine ferments (especially in those pre-vinifera days). Also, raisin brandy would add good vinous taste to new rye whiskey whereas grape distillate might be rather neutral for this purpose.

Byrn advises to boil the raisin wine hard for this purpose. He says you want in this case all the flavor to stay in the spirit. He wanted that taste to lend sufficient vinosity to new rye spirit. To do today what he advised, you would need a rye-heavy white dog and then add whatever would approximate closest to raisin brandy, I'm not sure what that would be. Maybe Spanish brandy would work, which is quite raisin like, but that is aged and I don't think Byrn's raisin brandy was aged. Maybe a marc would come closer altough marc is pretty rough, generally, I might take the untreated rye spirit before that. :) But a sweetened marc might do it..

I wonder if Sam's sells any kind of spirit made from raisins..

Gary
User avatar
gillmang
Vatman
 
Posts: 2138
Joined: Mon Jan 24, 2005 4:44 pm

Unread postby cowdery » Fri Sep 22, 2006 1:24 am

No, it wasn't a new product, but it was new to Pennco, C. E. Beam and his daughter.

My assumption is that raisins have some practical virtue. I think the object is to produce a fruit spirit with very little distinctive character, but what distinctive character it has is from grapes, making it appropriate for fortifying wine. It sounds like it was a commodity business. Something similar was being made at Yellowstone in Shiveley until recently. I'm sure producers compete primarily on price.

My sense of Pennco's business is still that they were primarily a contract distiller, but with a few brands of their own and some other proprietary business. Presumably, the contract business for whiskey was drying up in the late 60s-early 70s and the company was scrambling to find business.

What they found first was more contract distilling, just not of whiskey. Then it became tourism and decanters, most likely to supplement whatever was left of the contract business, as well as trying to grow their proprietary brand or brands. They were doing anything they could do to keep the doors open.

Heaven Hill says that when they started to make rye whiskey, on a contract basis, after most of the Eastern distilleries had shut down, they could make all they needed in a day. Even if that's an exaggeration, it probably wasn't much more than that. So for a few days out of the year, Beam, Turkey, Heaven Hill and a couple of others would make rye, while the last rye whiskey distillery in Pennsylvania was struggling to survive.

In 1974, Pennco made some bourbon. In 1988, the successor du jour sold some of it to Adolph Hirsch. Fifteen months later, he sold it to someone else (the Hues?) who wanted to name it after him. In 1988, Hirsch was 80 years old. What does an 80-year-old man want with 19 barrels of bourbon?

It just feels like there is an interesting story there, but we still don't exactly know what it is.
- Chuck Cowdery

Author of Bourbon, Straight
User avatar
cowdery
Registered User
 
Posts: 1586
Joined: Tue Oct 19, 2004 1:07 pm
Location: Chicago

Unread postby gillmang » Fri Sep 22, 2006 8:04 am

Byrn, from his chapter "Flavouring and Colouring of Spirits" (circa 1870's):

"From raisins is extracted a spirit, after proper fermentation, bearing this name [Raisin Spirit]. ... When fermentation is completed, the whole is to be thrown into the still, and spirits extracted by a strong fire. The reason why a strong fire is here directed is, because by that means a greater quantity of the essential oil [congeners] will come over the helm with the spirit, which will render it much fitter for the distiller's purpose; for this spirit is generally used to mix with common malt goods; and it is surprising how far it will go in this respect, 10 gallons of it being often sufficient to give a determining flavour and agreeable vinosity to a whole piece of malt spirit". [I wonder how much a "piece" is, or was].

I should add Hirsch in his chapter on malt spirit states that Indian corn may be used in lieu of barley. It is evident both from other parts of the book and other sources I've read that raisin spirit would have been commonly used indifferently to flavor young malt, corn and/or rye spirit.

Evidently it also found a place in domestic port production although for this purpose it might have been rectified higher than for addition to new cereal grain spirits.

It is interesting that in 1937, a chemical engineer called Irving Hirsch wrote a book, not in my possesion yet, called Manufacture of Whiskey, Brandy and Cordials. This was a text designed generally for larger factory set-ups. It would surprise me if Adolph Hirsch and his namesake Irving Hirsch were not related. Since, as Chuck has revealed to us, Adolph had a background in finance, perhaps Irving Hirsch was a brother, or other relation, who handled the technical side of distillery outfitting and production. According to a brief description of the book at http://www.homedistiller.org, it contains chapters on a diverse group of drinks including rye whiskey. Raisin spirit is probably one of them. In any case it appears to have been known for a long time in the American beverage alcohol businesses. (I don't doubt it was new to C.E. Beam and maybe even Pennco though).

It sounds like Pennco was a company in which Forman had to involve other investors after 1955 to continue operations, possibly Adolph Hirsch, George Shattls and/or the others mentioned by Chuck involved with Pennco, although one can't rule out I think that Continental owned Pennco outright. Being a closed company would mean that Pennco wasn't publicly traded and therefore it could have been a wholly-owned subsidiary of Continental Distilling (and indirectly of Publicker Industries) with the gentlemen mentioned by Chuck being officers only (not shareholders).

(I wonder if Heaven Hill didn't at some point buy the Continental subsidiary or business, which owned the Rittenhouse brand, because there is a reference to Continental Distilling on the current Rittenhouse BIB).


Gary
Last edited by gillmang on Fri Sep 22, 2006 3:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
gillmang
Vatman
 
Posts: 2138
Joined: Mon Jan 24, 2005 4:44 pm

Unread postby bourbonv » Fri Sep 22, 2006 12:35 pm

Chuck,
The additional information is helpfull. I do believe there are minute books for Logansport in the U D Archive. They might shed some light on the subject.
Mike Veach
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873
User avatar
bourbonv
Registered User
 
Posts: 4070
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2004 7:17 pm
Location: Louisville, Ky.

Michters Time Line

Unread postby Bourbon Joe » Fri Sep 22, 2006 12:42 pm

Based upon postings here to date, I have made a Michters Time Line to make it easier to understand when things took place. Please find it attached. We can add things as we learn about them.
Joe

A second version is attached, based on updated information provided by Chuck Cowdery.
Attachments
MICHTERS TIME LINE Version 2.pdf
(12.83 KiB) Downloaded 359 times
MICHTERS TIME LINE.pdf
(11.6 KiB) Downloaded 357 times
Last edited by Bourbon Joe on Sun Oct 22, 2006 12:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Colonel Joseph B. "Bourbon Joe" Koch

Bourbon, It's cheaper than therapy!
User avatar
Bourbon Joe
Erudite Bourbonite
Erudite Bourbonite
 
Posts: 1835
Joined: Tue Aug 16, 2005 4:02 pm
Location: Eastern Pennsylvania

Unread postby cowdery » Fri Sep 22, 2006 12:48 pm

The name Hirsch shows up in a lot of contexts relating to liquor, on a 19th century distributorship in Cincinnati, on a retail liquor store in Colorado. It mainly means that Hirsch is a pretty common name. A Google search for "Hirsch" yields almost 21 million hits.
- Chuck Cowdery

Author of Bourbon, Straight
User avatar
cowdery
Registered User
 
Posts: 1586
Joined: Tue Oct 19, 2004 1:07 pm
Location: Chicago

Unread postby cowdery » Wed Oct 04, 2006 1:08 am

Here is some interesting information. The Michter's bourbon used for A. H. Hirsch was used for some other bottlings put out by Gordon Hue of Cork and Bottle in the early 1990s. They include Boone’s Knoll, Colonel Randolph and Old Gromes.
- Chuck Cowdery

Author of Bourbon, Straight
User avatar
cowdery
Registered User
 
Posts: 1586
Joined: Tue Oct 19, 2004 1:07 pm
Location: Chicago

PreviousNext

Return to Non-Bourbon Whiskey

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests