Sunday, October 29, 2017

They're open! The day has come!

After years of hard work, planning, and getting things just right, the day has come. Stoll and Wolfe Distillery is open for business. You're now able to experience a distillery and tasting room unlike anything else in the heart of what was rye whiskey country. Stoll and Wolfe is a continuation of sorts. See, when Dick Stoll received the call from the bank to shut down the Michter's Distillery in Schaefferstown in 1990, there was no official end. It was assumed at the time that a new operator would be found by the bank in short time and they'd be back at it. That day never came. The doors stayed locked. Eventually the whiskey was all removed and destroyed by the government. Mr. Stoll never retired from Michter's. No, he retired instead from a local school district, denied a final farewell from distilling. But maybe it's because there would be a new beginning for him? Yes, this is where Stoll and Wolfe begins. While Erik, his wife Avianna, and father Jim Wolfe put it all together, they wanted to give Dick the chance to be involved with what he so loved years ago. And to some day, have a proper send off- the opportunity to say "Ok guys, now I'm ready." And though over a quarter century has gone by, he hasn't forgotten much, if anything. I've asked him very specific questions about the process of distillation at Michter's and he knew the exact answers. During the opening festivities, S&W released the first of their batches of rye whiskey. This whiskey was distilled in Virginia by the Wolfes and the Stolls (Dick met his wife Elaine at the distillery when she was hired as a tour guide. Elaine has many fond memories of the distillery just like Dick and is also a wealth of great knowledge). Dick was involved with coming up with the mashbill and the actual distillation and barreling of the product. Have I tried the rye? Yes. It's wonderful. For only being about a year to year and a half old, it's a great balance. Butterscotchy and lightly oily and grainy on the tongue. Astringent and slightly dry on the finish. And it will only get better as more time in the barrel influences the distillate. While the tasting room is open, the distillery will begin operation in the next few weeks. There are some finishing touches that need done and test runs will commence. And of course you can expect the same quality in future batches. So, stop by. Have a drink. Or two. Buy a bottle. Or two. Chat with Erik, Avi, Jim, and the others. You'll learn something, guaranteed.

Check them out at 35 North Cedar St. in Lititz, PA and online at

Below are photos taken by and used by permission from Amy Spangler.  Her photography work is second to none and shows some wonderful scenes from the opening week of festivities......

The tasting room. Very cozy.....

Erik Wolfe making a drink for a customer. Try his version of Rock and Rye. It's excellent.

Avianna greets customers.

The current menu. Vodka or gin based drinks are also available, as is wine.

Discussing the news of the day is Jim Wolfe and yours truly. I'm wearing one of my Michter's shirts for the occasion.

The legends. Dick and Elaine Stoll were on hand for the ribbon cutting ceremony. Some of the best folks you could ever spend time talking with about Michter's and anything whiskey.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Giving Away Secrets- How Michter's Distilled Whiskey on a "Large" Scale.

While taking a tour of Michter's the tour guide would be sure to take you into the Bomberger's Warehouse, which was the oldest standing building on the site during the Michter's era. In it were several things- an old barrel weight scale, some aging barrels of whiskey, occasionally barrels of purchased Scotch may have even been stored there before bottling. But the centerpiece was a large diagram showing in simplified view the entire distilling process at Michter's from grain to barrel.

Much has been written and said about the small still arrangement that once sat in the Still House and produced about a barrel a day of whiskey. Those stills exist today and were most recently restored and used by Tom's Foolery Distillery in Ohio. They are now in the possession of the modern day Michter's and the plan is to use them in their downtown Louisville, KY location once it is renovated. Little has been said or seen of the large scale- and I use that term loosely as they still only produced maybe 50 barrels a day- distillation process that produced the vast majority of Michter's and Pennco's whiskies and other spirits (Yes, they made more than whiskey, just not very often!). All the grain was stored and milled in the same location, but the grains destined for the pot stills in the Still House were then bagged and carried over to the Still House. Mashing and fermentation took place in the Fermentation building in large steel vats. After fermentation was complete, the distiller's beer was pumped under the creek in a pipe into a concrete vat under the Still House. From there it was run through a column still (Woah! Woah! Whoa! Yea, your "pot still whiskey" took a trip through a *gasp* column still!). Here's where it get controversial. After running through the column still, it took a trip into what Michter's called a "pot still." Some may call it a "doubler", others a "thumper". But it was run in batch form and not continuous form like the column still, so Michter's felt it appropriate to call it a pot still- thus maintaining the "Pot Still Whiskey" name. I believe it was Sam Komlenic that called it "One of the most controversial pieces of distilling equipment..." during a walk through of the distillery about 7 years ago. But that's neither here nor there anymore. The main distilling equipment is all gone, falling victim to the scrappers torch during demolition of the Still Tower and Fermentation Building. Michter's also had a large spent mash drying and processing facility. Used fermented mash was pumped over to the Grain Drying Building where it was dried out in a process that included evaporators, dryers, and the addition of sweet syrup. The end result was excellent cattle feed that was happily gobbled up by local steers and cows.

So about that diagram. In order to convey to the tour taker the uniqueness of the Michter's distillation process, the entire process was explained in good detail using a large, easy to understand diagram. It had not only the process from grain to barrel, but even included how the spent mash was dried and prepared as cattle feed. Pipes connected stills and tanks to show flow and each component was clearly labeled. Here's a great old scan of a slide showing the chart:

Here's another during a tour:

Lastly, here's a photo of the column still (Behind the Still Operator) and the controversial pot still: