Okay guys, here's two more puzzle pieces to add to the pile on the table...
(1) Gary points out Michael Jackson's reference to rye production, and specifically Old Overholt, a brand most often associated with Broad Ford in the western part of the state. Post-prohibition, Old Overholt was also National Distillers' flagship brand of Pennsylvania whiskey, which is obvious in their advertisements and labeling. What is not so obvious is that ND was not the sole owner of that brand, nor of its stock. When Henry Clay Frick owned the A. Overholt Company (the last family member to do so), he sold one third of it to Andrew Mellon. Mellon picked up another third as trustee after Frick's death in 1919. A few months later, as Secretary of the Treasury, he found himself in the position of chief prohibition agent for the United States. Mellon sold his Old Overholt interest to David Schulte (Park & Tilford), who then purchased the Large distillery and its stock. In 1927, Schulte made a deal with Lewis Rosenstiel whereby Schenley would sell the existing stock, about 200,000 gallons. Then, shortly after repeal, National Distillers bought the distilleries (along with a million and a half gallons of new whiskey). Which is how ND came to acquire both Old Overholt and Large. But meanwhile, Schenley was now left with 200,000 gallons of very fine old Pennsylvania rye whiskey which, by contract, had to be sold as bonded straight whiskey and under the respective Large and Old Overholt labels. I think Chris Morris would really get a kick out this... that left Schenley in a position where its almost certain market success and the brand loyalty generated would (and did) go directly to National Distillers when Schenley's stock finally ran out.
Now I know what I'm about to suggest here sounds rude, crude, and downright sneaky, but Mike Veach can verify that whiskey folks have been known to do this, even in Kentucky. Ask him about Canada Dry sometime. Remember, Schenley didn't OWN the Large/Old Overholt whiskey, their agreement obligated them to BOTTLE and SELL 200,000 gallons, as agents for Schulte. While apparently the whiskey had to be labeled as Old Overholt (and probably Large, too), the actual whiskey used needn't have been the very same physical whiskey that came in those barrels -- it could be 200,000 gallons worth of any whiskey, so long as it completely met specifications. Now, if the intention were to sell whiskey under a brand name mostly associated with one's competitor, it should not be so amazing that those bottles might not be filled with the very finest product obtainable. It would certainly be worth contracting out to other distilleries (not ones they owned, of course) so as to fulfill their contractual obligations without promoting demand for a brand they would then have to compete with.
So why would Schenley be contracting with Pennco to produce rye whiskey to be bottled as Old Overholt? Well, maybe that says something about the quality of the Pennco product. But to be fair, let's not forget that (a) Pennco-distilled products may have been excellent; we're not certain we've never tasted any. And (b) whatever the relationship between Michter's and Pennco, Michter's was not a 100-proof straight rye whiskey suitable for bonded whiskey status, so it wasn't Michter's in those Old Overholt bottles, either.
Oh yeah, and another thing... it doesn't seem likely that Schenley's Old Overholt marketing lasted more than a few years. Certainly not into the forties, considering WW-II took up most of that decade. But then, Chuck brought up some evidence that suggests the Schaefferstown distillery wasn't operating before then. If that's the case, how were they distilling Old Overholt for Schenley?
I'll put the second puzzle piece in the next post, but here's those photos Chuck mentioned that show the amazing Michter's pot still
- In this version from the 1950s' brochure, it looks as though they either taped a new portion over the identifier, or touched up the photo later. I'd bet you a year's salary that it originally just said "Doubler", like all the others do. It might even have
- michterstill50.jpg (31.2 KiB) Viewed 5901 times
- By the '80s they'd replaced the sign, removing the word "Doubler" completely. Or maybe not; the sign looks suspiciously "post-production" to me. At any rate, in both cases it is that OTHER device, whose identity/capacity sign is so conveniently obscured b
- michterstill80.jpg (20.45 KiB) Viewed 5900 times