Saturday, July 18, 2020

The Ethan Smith Blog - The Podcast!

Have 49 minutes? Want to hear my story of how I began the Michter's collection?

Click here: http://fermentedadventure.com/

Click FA Podcast at the top of the page and then click your preferred listening platform.

Look for the podcast with me, Ethan Smith, talking about Michter's Distillery.


Rich Shane, of Fermented Adventure traveled to meet me and view my collection. After a short tour, we got down to talking about Michter's and how I got interested in it. We sip a little Michter's too!




Of course, the obligatory Michter's picture. This one shows the bottling line with a young Dick Stoll in a white shirt helping the ladies bottle up some product.......


Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Pieces To A Puzzle.....

I was fortunate to pick up six extremely rare Michter's labels- so rare I actually did not think they existed. When Michter's whiskey was first introduced, it was in little ceramic jugs. Lou Forman found himself in a bit of quandary- his product was selling, but people weren't actually drinking the whiskey, they were just displaying the jugs. So he began bottling Michter's in glass bottles too. It is widely assumed that the square "1827" bottles were the first Michter's glass bottles. These look very similar to modern day Evan Williams or older Jim Beam and Jack Daniel's bottles. The reason for this assumption was because on Michter's very own bottle and decanter lists, that is what is first. But, they are incorrect apparently. These labels are from a run of bottles that predate the square "1827" bottles. How do I know? Take a look at the advertisements below. The jug shown next to the bottle and also the general dates of the ads predate all of the information I have on the "1827" bottles by about 5-10 years. I had assumed the glass bottle in the ads shown below was never made and was for promotional visuals only. These labels prove otherwise. Now I need to track down at least one of these bottles! Pieces to a puzzle.





Saturday, May 9, 2020

Two More Pieces Come Home

I was shocked one morning when, in my email, was a notification that two Michter's/Pennco barrel head stencils were up for sale. It's been a dream of mine from early in my Michter's collecting career to own at least one Michter's stencil. Now was my chance! I was fortunate to win both, though not cheaply, and they arrived a few days later. Understand that this is not a personal pride thing- I am trying to amass the largest and most complete Michter's collection to not only ensure history is preserved, but also because I want to make sure anyone looking for information on Michter's and its predecessors gets detailed and accurate information to answer all their questions.

The Pennco barrel stencil appears to be nearly new, if not new. Yes, it's real and not a reproduction, but it appears to have been an extra or back up stencil. Pennco produced quite a lot of rye over the years, so it would have been well used. The distillery was a famous rye distiller, so I am happy to have it.





The Michter's stencil tells a story. I'll walk you through some of the secrets a keen eye would notice....


The first interesting thing we're going to look at is the obvious spot where tape had been applied over "INC." on the stencil. As Michter's changed hands in the early 80's, the "Inc." was dropped from the Michter's name. From what I can tell, it was dropped after the Veru era of ownership in about 1982. To ensure the correct name was applied to whiskey being barreled after the ownership change, the simple thing to do was just tape over the "INC." and keep using the stencil.



A very sharp eye would notice that at one time the small "C" has been occasionally taped over as well. I am not 100% sure what "C" designates on barrels, but I would assume it means the barrel was charred or new cooperage. Being that Michter's Whiskey was aged in a combination of new and used barrels, they may find themselves in situations where the "C" would have been taped over when filling used barrels.


The last secret hides on the rear of the stencil- Tan paint residue. Michter's, when reusing barrels, would paint the heads tan to cover the old stenciling of the prior product. Then new stenciling was applied. It seems they were in a rush at times and the tan paint was not dry before stenciling with the new information.









These stencils were made by Quaker City 234 Arch St in Philadelphia. Today the building appears to be occupied by an insurance agency.




Friday, February 14, 2020

30 Years Ago Today....

It was February 14th, 1990 that Dick Stoll got the call from Commonwealth Bank. Close the doors. Don't return to work tomorrow. The bond on the whiskey still wasn't paid, the government was wanting their money, and the bank was tired of running a distillery.

The lights went off, the doors were locked, and a piece of paper was taped to the front door.

"Closed until further notice."

The further notice never came. Days stretched into months, and into years. The aging whiskey was removed, the distillery was vandalized and fell into disrepair. Over time, buildings collapsed or were bulldozed.

Little remains today, exactly 30 years after that phone call.

To pay our respects to this small distillery but massive monument to American history, Jim Wolfe of Stoll & Wolfe Distillery and I took a trip to the intersection of Michters and Distillery Roads in southern Lebanon County, PA. I brought a few things "home" for a few minutes- a bottle of A. H. Hirsch distilled there in 1974, a bottle of Michter's Pot Still whiskey from 1983 in the rare 101 proof, a decanter representation of the still house, and an original Michter's apron. After some photos, Jim and I said cheers to our old friend and had a small swig of Michter's Pot Still whiskey and headed on our way back to the distillery in Lititz.

There's something peaceful and relaxing about Michter's. It's a calm place on a back road in the country. Even on a cold, blustery day in February, it was a great joy to just be there for a few minutes. The property is posted as no trespassing, so we had to observe from the road side, but it was still great to see the remaining buildings standing and in good shape.

Michter's was never a "big guy" but it certainly held a special spot in whiskey history and American history.

Some photos by Jim of me in front of the distillery today....






Sunday, January 26, 2020

Some early Michter's advertising.

Going through some of my files, in search of an answer to a question from a friend, I came across some early examples of Michter's advertising. These represent the era where Lou Forman envisioned Michter's as the "soft" whiskey a refined gentleman over 40 may prefer. While there is much Pennsylvania Dutch flavor to the advertising, it was clearly also a product of it's era- when people were looking for "smooth" or "soft" whiskies. This was the era of blended whisky, Canadian whisky, gold rum, and vodka. You had to cater to the masses looking for easy sippers, versus today where people are looking for strong flavors and higher proofs in their spirits.

Below we see three early examples of simple black-and-white advertisements.





Changing gears to 60's-70's lounge culture, we have this little drink recipe book:









These are promotional advertisements for distributors:








Lastly, an awesome photo postcard of Michter's first glass bottles. These were directly styled after Jack Daniel's and Jim Beam bottles of the era:





Sunday, January 12, 2020

A Tour of Michter's- the Tour Guide Way!

 Going through some files today, I came across what appears to be a complete tour guide script from Michter's. Definitely some great information in it and also some interesting takes on their own history and operations. I won't comment on the accuracy of it (Some of it may or may not be 100% accurate and true....), I'll just post it as is for your reading enjoyment.













Of note, I am now an employee of Stoll & Wolfe Distillery in Lititz, PA and work in the spirits production end of the business. I also do tours every other Saturday. Come visit us and if you're up for a tour, which includes a tasting, you can sign up through the Stoll & Wolfe website here:

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Stoll & Wolfe Distills the First Batch of Rosen Rye in Decades.

American whiskey nerds rejoice- Stoll & Wolfe Distillery in Lititz, PA has done a thing. A big thing. One of the amazing and unique things about the rye whiskey that was distilled in Pennsylvania is that much of it was made with a variety of rye called Rosen rye. On the earliest Michter's jugs, it was even specifically called out as the variety of grain used to produce the Michter's Pot Still Whiskey. As rye drinking, and whiskey drinking in general, waned over the years, Rosen Rye became a "dead" variety that was no longer planted and used for anything. Through Laura Fields at the Delaware Valley Fields Foundation and their Seed Spark project, Rosen Rye was planted in conjunction with Penn State University. When enough was available for harvest, Stoll & Wolfe was selected to be the distiller- since Dick Stoll is part of the operation, it would only seem fitting! This past Tuesday, the grain was cooked and mashed and the yeast was pitched. Saturday saw the first distillation of Rosen Rye in decades, probably 50 some years! Of course Mr. Stoll was there, as were many other folks from the world of American whiskey. It was an excellent day that went wonderfully and produced a whiskey that is rounded, full of flavor, and yet not rough or harsh in any manner. I look forward to seeing what comes out of a barrel in a few months and years! Pictures below are all taken by my wife. A special thank you to all the folks that really made this happen- the farmers, the folks from Penn State, Laura and her team, Lisa Roper and Steve Bashore for their expertise, and the whole team at Stoll & Wolfe! Also, a special note too that Dad's Hat will also be producing a Rosen Rye that should be an equally impressive whiskey. Look for it in the future too!

https://www.delvalfieldsfoundation.org/

https://www.stollandwolfe.com/

 The copper pot still.


 Me running the column still.


 Erik Wolfe checking condenser temperature.


 Dick Stoll and Erik Wolfe. The men that the distillery is named after.


 Mash Cooker. 528 gallon capacity.


 Rosen Rye being distilled in the column still.


 Mr. Stoll taking a taste of the new distillate.


 The distillery and attendees.


 Group photo! (Rear L-R) Jim Wolfe, Erik Wolfe, me. 
(Front L-R) Elaine Stoll, Dick Stoll, Avianna Ponzi Wolfe


The column still bubbling away!