Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Before Michter's was "The Whiskey That Warmed The Revolution," it was the whiskey that "Sips Softly."

I'm sure most of my devout readers will notice I've made a few updates and changes, cleaned up a few things, and added some features to the blog. If you know me, you know I don't let things stay the same for long. Anyway, on to the next blog post.

I'm going to drop a bombshell here.


Michter's wasn't always Michter's. I mean the whiskey. And the distillery. And pretty much everything Michter's.


Yes, Michter's has a real interesting formation. See, at face value, it would seem that back in the 50's, Lou Forman bought a small distillery in Schaefferstown and distilled and bottled his Michter's there. Wrong. This is where it all gets interesting.

Michter's started way before Michter's.


So was I for a long time. Then the ball of twine unraveled. There were 2 Michter's!!
How could this be? Well, first there was Michter's Pot Still Whiskey, which was bottled by a company called Michter's Jug House which was owned by Lou Forman. During this early period of Michter's Whiskey, there was no Michter's Distillery- The distillery in Schaefferstown was called Pennco and was owned by Samuel Glass and was affiliated with Continental Distilling in Philadelphia. Lou Forman was also very involved with the Pennco operations, but did not own a distillery.

This is where it gets weird.

The Michter's Whiskey name first appeared in 1955. It was sold in a 4/5qt crock and marketed as a fine Pennsylvania whiskey. But since Mr. Forman did not own a distillery and was involved with Pennco/Continental, he had to find some whiskey to fill his crocks from those operations. Pennco had just been created and had taken control of the remaining stock of Kirk's Pure Rye. Continental was sitting on mass quantities of all sorts of whiskey. So in the Michter's jugs it went! Yes, that's right. Michter's started off life as being a way for Pennco and Continental to get rid of whiskey that was sitting around! And not to say it was bad whiskey, it wasn't. It was good whiskey that had no other place to go. Dick Stoll once told me he remembers seeing Pennco and Kirk's Pure Rye barrels being dumped and put in Michter's jugs. Dave Ziegler, who worked on the bottling line at Continental recalls bottling Michter's Liberty Bells there many years ago.

Then Lou Forman had a problem. His nitfy little jugs weren't getting drank. They were being bought and used as decoration! Something had to be done. So Michter's got a quick re-invention into a suave, upscale businessman's whiskey. Soon, Michter's had billboards and ads trumpeting "If you're not 40, forget it!" and then "Michter's Sips Softly." The jugs were still made, but took a back seat to a new Jack Daniel's-esque square glass bottle with a black label. Very suave indeed. Sales expanded and more product began to be bottled in Schaefferstown because Pennco was losing its bulk whiskey contracts. Plus, Lou Forman was more involved with the Pennco side of things anyway. Then came 1975. Pennco files bankruptcy and fearing a cut off of his source of whiskey, Lou Forman and a group of local businessmen create Michter's Distillery, Inc.

And then there were 2!
As the whiskey matured, Michter's Whiskey was still Pennco stock for a few years, but new Michter's Whiskey was being distilled by Michter's Distillery, Inc. So during this period, Michter's Distillery was distilling the whiskey to be bottled and sold by Michter's Jug House. This explains the mystery of why all the Michter's products from 1955 to about 1980 say "Decanted and Jugged" or "Bottled by Michter's Jug House." That's the truth. It was bottled, but not distilled by Michter's. It was distilled by Pennco, Kirk's Pure Rye, or Continental!

And back to 1.
Around the time the distillery was sold to Ted Veru, the Michter's Jug House name disappeared and decanters and bottled began to say "Distilled and Bottled by Michter's Distillery." This again would be true- indicating that all the Pennco, Kirk's, and Continental whiskey had been used up and Michter's was actually being filled with, well, Michter's!


Absolutely! That's about as easily as I could explain it without going into extreme detail. And to wrap this up, here are 2 scans of a brouchure I bought off EBay from 1964 proclaiming Michter's sipping softly. Enjoy!

No comments:

Post a Comment