Sunday, August 19, 2012

One more step towards a complete collection.......

A few weeks ago, a Michter's collector contacted me and asked if I had any interest in his collection. He was moving, and didn't want to have to take all of his decanters with him. When he told me what he had, I had to buy some of it. I wish I could have bought the whole collection, but since I like to pay what is fair, it didn't leave me quite enough in the budget to buy the whole thing. So I bought what I needed to fill the gaps in my collection. In the photo you see everything I purchased from him-

-Michter's 1.75L glass bottle lamp
-Michter's apron
-Michter's napkins
-Michter's information books
-1.75L glass bottle
-3 empty 750ML glass bottles (One has a gold Christmas package box with it)
-750ML glass 101 bottle with Christmas box
-1 Liter glass bottle
-2 200ML glass bottles (One empty, one full)
-375ML glass bottle
-101 proof "Tall jug" decanter
-Cobalt blue Quarter Whiskey bottle

A big thank you to Tom for these great pieces!

If you would be interested in purchasing some of Tom's other pieces (He's got lots more good stuff!!), contact me privately and I will send you his email address. Tom is a great guy and wants to see his stuff go to good homes where they will be appreciated!

As a second part of this note- I am proud to announce that my Michter's collection will soon become part of a distillery's museum. I will be involved with this distillery and the creation of the museum as well. More information coming soon! Stay tuned!

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Michter's Update....

So while in the area today, a friend and I decided to stop by the Michter's site. Since the site is now owned by Lebanon Farms Disposal (See the article from the Lebanon Daily News a few posts back), I did not want to set foot on the property without permission. We drove down to the Lebanon Farms office and asked if we could walk around and take some pictures. The receptionist there was very nice and made a call to see if it was allowable. Unfortunately, with the condition of the buildings, we were not granted permission to go on the site. From the years of neglect- I think I termed it " regard for American history..." in my video in a previous post- the buildings are in sad, sad shape- the three warehouses at the top of the hill  and the grain drying building had even collapsed by the time LFD bought the property. The buildings that remain are pretty shaky too. It would not surprise me if the fermenting building and column building were torn down as well. Back when I still had access to the property through Dwight Hostetter, the only good buildings on the site were the original still house and Warehouse A, which Dwight had secured and re-roofed. While it is sad and upsetting for me to see the site slowly scrapped and dismantled, I've come to terms with it as of late and understand it must be done for the safety of the local area. I would love to see at least the still house saved. To me, that is the epitome of Michter's and a nice building to restore and use. As they say though- "All good things must come to an end."

Saturday, June 23, 2012

And the number dwindles....

I received word this past week about the passing of a Michter's employee. Elaine Stoll called me to tell me that Tom Cuttle, 74, had been killed in a vehicle accident in Schaefferstown over the weekend. According to Dick Stoll, Tom was the Storekeeper-Gauger at Pennco/Michter's. Due to that position at the distillery, he was trained and became an agent for the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms. Dick remembered Tom as being a great guy and said they both were good friends during their years together. Tom went on to open a beer distributor in Lebanon after his years at Pennco/Michter's. I never knew or met Tom, but I wish I had. I'm sure just like Dick and Elaine, he was a great man with great stories and a kind heart. The Michter's community has lost another great person.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The USC Football Decanter Arrives........

Thanks to some great people in Hot Springs, AR, I now have a USC football decanter! So without further introductions and ramblings, here is a photo of the full set of "football on a tee" decanters released by Michter's:

Sunday, May 20, 2012

So what exactly is left of Michter's...........

Here's a short video shot entirely from the public road by me of the destruction that has come to Michter's.

As I mention in the video, this is just one more historic site in the Susquehanna Valley that we've now lost. This area is truly becoming the black hole of culture and history. Not only have we all but entirely erased our rich Pennsylvania Dutch heritage, now we're destroying the few remnants of the agricultural economy on which this whole area was built upon. As the influx of "outsiders" continues into this area, I have a fear that our heritage in this area will some day be completely erased. So I have at least set out to preserve one little sliver of it, and I hope that I can continue with my quest to save Eastern Pennsylvania's distilling history!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A failed experiment.......

Today was the day I decided to end a "failed" experiment. On November 11th, 2011, I filled small charred oak liter and 2 liter barrels with some Heaven Hill Trybox Rye. It was unaged, 125 proof right off the still in Kentucky. Here, about a week short of 6 months, I poured the barrels out to see what had happened to the whiskey aging inside. As you'll notice from the photo, the whiskey has certainly changed color! Note that it looks very similar to a whiskey that was aged for a decade or more. The flavor is another story. Even though it has picked up the color and tannin flavors of the oak, the hot, yeasty, bread-like notes of the unaged whiskey are all still present and powerful. The rye is unfortunately not pleasant at all to drink and will probably be mixed or used for cooking. A failed experiment to age my own whiskey. Or was it?

 Through this 6 month experiment, I have learned quite a few different things, all of which are invaluable to me as a whiskey connoisseur. It has reinforced the findings of Buffalo Trace distillery, Chuck Cowdery, and Jason Pyle that small barrels just don't age out whiskey correctly. There is no substitute for time and patient aging in a 53 gallon barrel. I handled this experiment like a micro-distiller would age their product and got pretty much the same result they do- An unbalanced whiskey that still carries all the unfavorable notes of an unaged product, but with a severe dose of oak tannins.

 Read more about Mr. Cowdery and Mr. Pyle's findings here:
 Sour Mash Manifesto Article
 Chuck Cowdery and Buffalo Trace

I have already started a new experiment though. Using the same 1 and 2 liter barrels, I am already aging some 80 proof Heaven Hill white label bourbon, which is 3 years old and $10 per liter here in PA. I want to see what effects the small barrels will have on an already aged product at a low proof- along with seeing how much of the rye flavor is transferred to the bourbon from the soaked wood of the insides of the barrels. This experiment should yield something drinkable- and hopefully really tasty too!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Wild Turkey Rye.............

As several of us on Straightbourbon have found out, Wild Turkey is going to be releasing a new version of the famous 101 rye- called 81 rye. Yes, 81 proof. Yuck. Seriously. Why? My first thought was maybe the love loads of hate mail, but that certainly can't be it. See, rye is gaining popularity as people look for something that has a strong flavor. Wild Turkey is running in short supply of their rye, so to get 20% more out of each barrel, they are cutting the proof down to a childish 81. The 101 rye will still live on, but in obscurity and in very, very limited supply. The watered-down rye will now be the main rye Wild Turkey makes. Needless to say, I don't plan on drinking this watered-down excuse of a whiskey, so I've been steadily stocking up on the 101 rye before it disappears off the State Store shelves. The name has already been changed on the PLCB lists so it's only a matter of time until the 81 appears. I'm sitting on a good 15 bottles, so that should hold me over until I can find more 101 rye in the future. With the new distillery up and running, Wild Turkey has much more capacity. I expect down the road a few years the tight supply of rye will loosen and the 101 rye to become more prevalent again. Until then, I've got my stash to weather the lean years with!

To follow the Wild Turkey 101/81 saga, click here: Wild Turkey Rye 81

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Wild Turkey 80 VS. 81

Yes, Wild Turkey now makes an 81 proof bourbon. It is a subject of debate as to whether the 80 proof version will now go away or not. I snagged the last bottle of 80 proof off the Manheim state store shelf a few weeks ago and I finally got around to purchasing a bottle of 81 so I can do an official review. I actually have both bottles and 2 shot glasses in front of me as I write so I can do this most accurately. So other than 1 proof point and the look of the label, what's different between the 80 and 81? The 80 proof is aged about 4 years, while the 81 is aged 6 to 8 years like its 101 proof brother. The idea was to make a lower proof twin of the famous 101 that would be easier to mix and sip. So how do they stack up? Well.....

Color: The 80 proof is a nice light caramel color. You can see it does not have much age. The 81 proof, when put directly beside the 80, is a slightly deeper reddish-brown, indicative of the extra 2-4 years of aging.

Aroma: The 80 proof is strong in the grain smells. Very little evidence of the sweet tannins of barrel aging. Some alcohol smell and a fruity simple odor. The 81 smells sweeter, but is very similar with a mild aroma. A bit of the tannin influence can already be noticed here.

Mouth feel and flavor: The 80 is not unpleasant, but also very simple and un-complex. Grainy with some alcohol bite. Some light tannins and a slight leathery flavor let you know it's Wild Turkey. The higher rye content is also evident. Again, simple, sweet, and grainy. This is where the brothers start to really go in different directions. I just sipped the 81 after finishing a few sips of the 80. Wow. Much more complexity and thickness. It's still only 81 proof, so don't look for flavor you can cut with a knife. This expression has much more barrel richness- more leather, vanilla, smoke. It's smoother and more refined. I'm impressed! The nice extra rye flavor is still there, but it's like drinking my beloved 101 proof in a lighter form. Yum!

Finish: The 80 proof reminds me of Mellow Corn's finish- Sweet and "...where the heck did it go?" Not unpleasant, but nothing to write to mom about. The 81 is honestly about the same here. There is a light sweetness that lingers and then it's gone. But what should you expect from an 80 or 81 proof whiskey? This isn't Wild Turkey American Spirit!

The results: The 80 proof shows its youth, but it's by no means a bad whiskey. Both the 80 and 81 would mix well, but for sipping, the 81 is certainly your winner. If you're looking for something simple, inexpensive, and nice to sip, hit the 81. Well, both glasses are empty so it's time to end this review!