Joe, I am not sure where that comes from but when Julian bottled the current Michter's labels, I believe the whiskey was from UDV in Louisville (now Bernheim and owned by HH). Bernheim was opened in 1992 and before that, UDV sourced whiskey from S-W for wheated whiskey and I am not sure where it got its rye whiskey and rye-recipe bourbon, Mike Veach would know that of course. I refer to this older history because some of the whiskey in those bottles may have been made before 1992 (I think the 10 year old rye may have been but I am not sure, maybe not). Today, as John said, the Kulsveens in Bardstown bottle the Michter's labels and select the whiskeys. I like the Michter's Straight Rye which is at least 4 years old and has a very good balance. I believe it to be made by HH because it resembles to my mind Pikesville rye except finer, possibly it is taken from the best (single) barrels used for Pikesville.
On John and Linda's page on Michter's, they give the links to the Michter's pages of Yvonne Bomberger Fowler, a descendant of the Bomberger family who established the distillery in Schaefferstown over 200 years ago. She reproduced a 1980 Michter's brochure which contains a detailed explanation of the distillation of Michter's Sour Mash Pot Still whiskey. The description does not refer to the one barrel a day production that came later from the mini-pot still. It refers to 50 barrels per day from a column still and doubler (the latter is clearly the pot still referred to on the label of the product at the time and in this advertising). A "blend" of rye and corn is referred to for the mash with no percentages given, but clearly this is the 50% corn, 37% rye and 12% barley malt mash referred to by Michael Jackson. The whiskey is described as soft, 86 proof, 6 years old. It is also stated in the brochure that Michter's was distilled out at 156 proof and entered in charred barrels at 115 proof.
A 101 proof version was also available in decanter and bottle. Photos show mostly decanters but also some bottles of this Michter's pot still whiskey.
This shows that this sour mash pot still whiskey was made in a straight whiskey style. The only thing that prevented it from being bourbon was the corn content was 50% not 51% or higher. But then too some of it at least in some years may have been technically bourbon, which is perhaps why the 1974 barrels that produced the Hirsch 16 and 20 year old whiskeys contained bourbon. The distillery or bottler may have in some years put Schaefferstown-made bourbon, especially if it was 51% corn, 38% rye, 11% malt, in jugs called Michter's sour mash pot still, i.e., I do not think under law they had to call that bourbon, but whether this is so or not, the Schaefferstown distillery may simply have made different but stylistically similar whiskeys concurrently or at different times.
Michter's sour mash pot still whiskey was I would say a kind of amalgam of straight rye and bourbon whiskey and this is the recipe that I understand was devised for this whiskey for Pennco by C. Everett Beam in the 1950's.
I think this recipe reminds us that "bourbon" and "rye" are specific types of straight whiskey, the kinds defined in the books after Prohibition. But there can be other kinds (whether or not technically straight whiskey under the regs). The Pennco type was very much in my view in the American whiskey tradition, it was an inspired variation on a theme that is probably as old as whiskey making in America.
The 1980 Michter's brochure states more than once that the pot still sour mash whiskey is "made" or "produced" at the distillery in Schaefferstown. Numerous photos are shown of the plant, its control room, its barrelhouse, etc.
This does not mean for certain the whiskey was made there (or always made there) but I think it is some evidence it was, at least around 1980. And since the news stories also posted by Ms. Fowler state that Pennco sold the plant in 1978, I infer what was available for sale as Michter's sour mash pot still in 1980 was distilled at Schaefferstown by Pennco in 1974 or earlier.
Other materials collected by Ms. Fowler on her page state that distilling started at Schaefferstown (post-Prohibition) in 1947 and continued until 1980 when use of the column still ceased. So, not long after this 1980 brochure was produced, production stopped. It started again in about 1984 (according again to the materials) and stopped in 1989. I am not sure if the column still started up or just the mini-still though. Maybe the column still and doubler started up again from '84-'89 and the mini-still after until the jug house was closed. Here the details get a little hazy to me.
These are data one can glean from Internet sources but many questions are still not answered. It may be that Schaefferstown produced different whskeys at different times, responding to varying market conditions. But surely most of what it produced in its history was bulk whiskey for the wholesale trade, or that is what I infer. The only real question unanswered in my mind is when Michter's sour mash pot still whiskey was first marketed in decanters (jugs or other). Was it the 80's, 70's, 60's, or 50's? I am not sure but believe that some was put out from the 50's onward under this name, in the little jugs, i.e., in the Pennco era, and that the practice continued until and after the sale of the plant in '78, until no more whiskey was available to be "decanted".
Of the Michter's brands available today I believe Michter's Straight Rye is closest to Michter's original sour mash whiskey. True, the mash bill could not be the same. But its age and color and soft flavor correlate approximately in my view to what is described in the brochure.
Last edited by gillmang
on Mon Apr 10, 2006 8:31 pm, edited 2 times in total.