Friday, December 19, 2014

How's that math again?

In 1978, Michter's made a decanter to commemorate Penn State's 39 consecutive winning years. The only problem? They did the math wrong on the 3 prototypes. It was caught before production started. Since all of the promotional items showed the decanter displaying 38 years, the distillery got a lot of calls and letters noting the error. According to the November 1978 "The Michter's Collector" newsletter, they decided to raffle only one of the three. This is that one. In the February 1979 newsletter, they note that a Mrs. Florence Suchcicki of Reading was the winner.

Direct text from the Nov. 1978 newsletter:

"Big companies, small companies, wise men, not so wise men. . . . everyone makes mistakes from
time to time. And we do too. One mistake was the first samples we got of the Nittany Lion
Decanters. The inscription on the front of the bottle read, 'Penn State Nittany Lions NCAA
Record For Most Consecutive Seasons Without a Losing Season 1939-1977 38 Straight Non.
Losing Seasons.
Well, think about it. 1939-1977 isn't 38 seasons, it is 39. Luckily for us, someone had called this to
our attention before the final production sample was produced and the final issue piece correctly
read as 39 straight non-losing seasons. Anyway, there were three samples made reading 38
seasons and one of these is going to be awarded to one of our Society members.
To qualify, send us the postcard which we have enclosed in this mailing (don't forget a 10' stamp)
to Post Office Box 481, Schaefferstown, Pennsylvania 17088, with your Society number printed on
the card. On the day after New Year's we will have a special drawing and one of you will be sent
this "mistake" of ours. It should be a welcome and "fun" addition to your collection. So, we
expect to see hundreds of post cards coming our way soon. Remember, January 2 is the
deadline, and the holiday mails are notorious."

Direct text from the Feb. 1979 newsletter:

 "As you will remember, in the last issue of The Collector, we invited all
members of the Michter's National Collectors' Society to send in a
postcard if they were interested in becoming eligible to win one of the
three incorrect samples of the Michter's Nittany Lion Decanter. Instead
of the correct "39 straight non-losing seasons," it read "38 straight non'
losing seasons." As was explained, this error was discovered before the
bottle went into production, and we thought this would be a unique prize
for one of our members.
Well, on Thursday, January 4,1979, Dr. Charles Hughes, a noted oral
surgeon from Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, and his lovely wife, Dorothy, both
early members of the Michter's National Collectors' Society, were kind
enough to come to the distillery and draw the lucky winner.
Florence Suchcicki, Society Number 246, from Reading, PA., 

whose card was drawn from the more than 2,000 received
is now the proud owner of
our "mistake." Florence not only received the
"odd" Nittany Lion Decanter but also a Certificate
of Authenticity, complete with corporate seal,
which is reprinted to the right."

I did not receiver the paper with mine, so it must've been lost over the years. The whereabouts of the other two decanters is highly in doubt as well since they were not only prototypes, but also mistakes.

Good at whiskey, bad at math- Michter's, the whiskey that warmed the Revolution!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Private Single Barrel Programs Are Nothing New.

As much as Michter's liked to emulate what worked for the competition (101 proof, square bottles, etc.), they also sometimes blazed their own trail. Displayed below is a complete mailing discussing the single barrel program that Michter's was rolling out. I am unsure of the exact date, but my guess would be 1979-1981 since it is marked T.D. Veru. Notice too how comprehensive the program is- Not only are you buying the barrel, but you actually get to pick the date your whiskey is put in a barrel and how long you age it. Most contemporary single barrel programs only allow you to buy an already aged barrel. Private tours will be made so you can visit your barrel and your name will be displayed in the Bomberger Warehouse as well. Included with the other information is a very handy cases per barrel calculator that shows you how much whiskey to expect after leaving your barrel age for so many years. When the whiskey was bottled, it was to receive special labels with your name on it as well. A second option, "for the impatient" is that they had 300 barrels of whiskey available that were aging since 1976 (About 3-5 years by the time of this mailing) and could be purchased for single barrel bottling. A few other last notes of interest on this program:

1. It was only available to in-state residents. I figure this is because of the PLCB laws.
2. The whiskey would be bottled at 115 proof (Barrel entry proof).
3. They recommend at least 6 years of aging (That is what Michter's was generally bottled at).

I have no idea how many, if any, people took part in the program. If anyone did, I wonder if their barrels were still there when the distillery shut down in 1990. Talk about a huge loss of money!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Enough About Me. What About You?

I know I'm not the only one out there that has Michter's stuff. I've seen pictures or heard of other collections. If you've got stories, photos, a collection, or anything Michter's related that you'd like to share, drop me a line and I'd love to hear or see it! It's all of our cumulative stories, information, and items that tell the history of Michter's!

Here's a great photo of the guys enjoying some Michter's around barrel number one! The whiskey was only half of the Michter's story. It was the people that made it great.
I was asked to identify the men in the photo. I consulted Elaine Stoll and she was able to identify all of them. From left to right: George Shattls, Warren Wike, Dick Stoll, Bill Krause, and Paul Betz.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Brother aganst brother, rye against rye. Wild Turkey and Rittenhouse make some changes.....

As many in the American whiskey world have already known, two popular rye whiskies have had some changes recently.
Wild Turkey had a shortage of their rye, so the famous 101 proof whiskey became an anemic, pathetic, foul-tasting 81 proof. But to the relief of many fans, the 101 is back! Even though it is only available in a liter size in only a few markets, it is available once again for purchase.
A competitor to Wild Turkey Rye, Rittenhouse Rye is produced by Heaven Hill at 100 proof. This rye was made for many years, under contract, by Brown-Forman. The reason for this arrangement was due to the massive fire at Heaven Hill's Bardstown distillery that had them purchasing the Bernheim distillery a few years later. Supply was tight and Heaven Hill called on other distillers to help them out. Brown-Forman started distilling the Rittenhouse Rye did so until a few years ago. When Brown-Forman stopped, Bernheim started- but whiskey must age a few years before being bottled. The new Bernheim-produced rye has finally hit the market and bottles of the Brown-Forman-produced product will disappear.

Wild Turkey 101 old versus new:

This one is an interesting comparison since it's product from the same distiller, just 2 years difference. Many people that have gotten the new 101 say it's younger and they don't like it. While I won't say they're wrong, there is honestly just not that much difference. If the new 101 is younger, it's by months and not years. My wife and I detected a little more grain and spice on the new 101 and a tiny bit more oak on the old 101, but honestly, I've seen more bottle-to-bottle variance in mass production whiskies than this. Here's the other thing- Wild Turkey 101 Rye has been 4-5 years old for years. The new product has no age statement on it (Neither did the old 101), so by federal labeling standards, it must still be at least 4 years old. Is it worse than the old 101? In my opinion, absolutely not! It's still my favorite whiskey of all time!

Rittenhouse old versus new:

So here's the one with the big flavor change. Being a Bottled-In-Bond product, and also a Straight Rye Whiskey, old and new batches of whiskey can't be blended together to smooth the transition from one distiller to the other. The Brown-Forman rye always tasted like "Old Forester Rye" to me. It had those same earthy, maple, leather flavors that are in Old Forester products. It was really an enjoyable rye! The new Rittenhouse from Heaven Hill's Bernheim distillery is very different. It's bolder, spicier, drier, and a bit more grainy. I actually prefer this new rendition as I lean towards bold, dry whiskies. But it's not to say one is better than the other, they will just appeal to different palates. A warning though to the people that like the Brown-Forman Rittenhouse- the new stuff is much different, so don't have expectations of it being the same profile!