I started this post a couple of weeks ago, but then on March 8, whiskey blogger Josh Feldman posted an entry over at The Coopered Tot titled “Considering Michter’s,” the resulting comments on which became a “spirited” discussion on Twitter, entertaining masses of Whiskey geeks and annoying the innocent wondering what these idiots were bitching about. Here is Josh’s post.
Naturally, I decided to re-work this post in response; I’ll address his post in this entry, but it won’t completely take over my originally intended blog post. The flow of this one might seem awkward without this explanation, as it has undergone major editing, so please bear with me.
This is most likely the last such post I’ll write on Michter’s, as they will soon start distilling. I’m sure Michter’s/Chatham will forget that it will take several years for their Whiskey to reach bottles, so if stories of the “new” or “expanded” distillery start coming out, you’ll know it’s bullshit. It will be the first drops of Whiskey they have ever made, which will be four to six years away from actually being released. I also wouldn’t be surprised if they release some George Washington’s New Make Rye Whiskey or some crap like that.
In February 2013 they secured another abandoned trademark for Bomberger’s Declaration (the tmsearch.uspto.gov search link wouldn’t transfer, so a screen capture is below); Bomberger’s was another name for the real Michter’s distillery in the 1900s, along with Pennco – neither of which they have anything to do with, nor do they use original recipes or yeast from.
Anyone that has followed me for a bit understands that I can go off on a sudden rant about something, especially my favorite target, Chatham Imports (which owns the Michter’s brand). I’ve covered it before and will cover it again. Still, people keep asking me, “Why do you hate these guys so much?”
Maybe it’s a crusade to change one thing that I see and believe is terribly wrong, even if by just a little bit. They are a snapshot of why it is so difficult to trust your whiskey these days. In fact, Michter’s is a prime example of why the Bottled and Bond Act of 1897 was created; they are a modern unscrupulous rectifier using shady, and what I find fraudulent, practices to market their brand. They are run by a lawyer; he stays on the legal side of gray, so technically the misleading facts of the brand are “OK.”
So, I do this to make a point to others who will come up with “Lincoln Liquor” pretending old Abe pissed in a whiskey barrel they use. Yes, there are lots of stories and legends out there, some worse than others. Maybe I’ll get to some. What it really boils down to, though, is Michter’s displays a lack of respect for and a willingness to shit all over the tradition of the classy brands and companies, some of which are centuries old. They are smug and give the preverbal finger to its customers assuming they are too stupid to care or notice, we notice.
Look, I’m not from Kentucky, but I love the state and its people; I love the tradition. I could see myself retiring there, really. Come on, Powerball! Heck, I’d have a horse farm and distillery faster than you can say, “Chatham Imports/Michter’s are scummy carpetbaggers literally from 5th Avenue in New York.” OK, maybe faster than that.
Here is the real Michter’s that DID sell booze to George Washington’s troops.
Operating since the 15th Century, this family (the Laird’s) are the real deal, and you should be getting their awesome 12 year Apple Brandy or the Laird’s Bottled in Bond 100 Proof Brandy, which contains 20 pounds of apples – yes, Bottled in Bond Apple Brandy. They have actual records of Washington buying their booze. Chatham has nothing. The people running Chatham seem to think that huge gaps in history and piecing things together with kindergarten paste is “good enough.”
In his post, Josh shows Michter’s decanters and King Tut bottles at the Chatham headquarters. If this is the standard, I have souvenirs from Graceland and an Autographed Elvis Album, so I must be related to Elvis right? If I have a seat from Yankee Stadium and some infield dirt, I’m a Hall of Famer. Aw, what the hell, I’m Babe-freaking-Ruth. And if I have a decanter from Old Fitzgerald or Old Rip Van Winkle, that makes me a distiller and a Van Winkle?
No, this is just some idiot brand playing games and assuming all its customers will go off thinking they are the Whiskey Elvis when all they have is a Graceland snow globe.
I’m not currently a fan of Buffalo Trace (read my stuff and you’ll know why) but they have walked the walk and paid their dues (most their dues Eric). Sorry 10 people got that private joke. Harlen Wheatley knows his shit, and when they are not screwing around, they make some of the best whiskey in the world – maybe the best, depending on the month and who’s drinking it. I’ll give credit where credit is due; I’ll always try to be fair. When I’m not, I’ll say so. Josh is off base with his piece, which seems to put a giant target in the wrong place – on my back. This is why I say that Jefferson and Michter’s put out some really good whiskey at times; not recently, though.
My issue isn’t the juice, it’s who says they squeezed the juice and how. The Jefferson and Michter’s I like were also done and bottle by KBD, so that was palatable for me in their deception. I realize the nature of the “biz” for survival reasons which makes them need to concoct stories, legends and mirages. But even greed and sales have a line, and Michter’s has crossed it lots. There is no reason in this “sell every bottle you have” environment to lie.
Now, that said, I can’t say that if I had a choice to lose it all or lie that I would be much different. Thankfully, that’s why I’m not doing what they do. Julian Van Winkle III has a degree in psychology and economics (I believe, but I’m wrong a lot). His choice was to be dragged into the biz by his dad and now he is finally recognized for all the lean times and treated like a rock star. I get that, but not the PR bullshit he unnecessarily flings.
(An aside: As I write this, I’m having my first drink in five days. It’s a Goose island Bourbon Country Stout at 14.9 percent ABV. It’s kicking my ass right now. I’ll need to clean this up some. It’s some good stuff and will eff up most bottles of Michter’s in a throw down, so let’s get on with it.)
True lovers, students of and respecters of the craft of distilling are passionate. The trade media WILL NOT take this on to the extent needed to slow or stop this implicit collusion because (whether they like it or not) both sides know who holds the keys, the wallets and futures of these publications. I used to get seven different print Whiskey/Beverage publications, and now I get one. I can get better, more timely info reading seven great bloggers – well, when they don’t spew the fairy dust they have ingested.
Michter’s will soon be going live with a real still. They either took delivery of the still from Vendom, or delivery is close. They hired a real Master Distiller. From an edited article from Louisville BizJournals, Pamela Heilmann was hired as distiller and vice president of production. She spent 15 years working with Baker’s, Basil Hayden’s, Booker’s and Knob Creek. Most recently, Heilmann was distillery manager at the Booker Noe Distillery in Boston, Ky. She tells BizJournals, “I look forward to working with master distiller Willie Pratt to produce the most exceptional rye and bourbon on the market.”
As much as I hate to admit it, she will make some great Whiskey, but that takes time. I doubt she will be working much with Willie Pratt other than stupid looks he will give her like when you blow a whistle at a dog. Working with him will be like Superman looking forward to working with Bugs Bunny.
How does a brand suddenly go legit? Do they stay quiet? Not these fools. I’m sure the Mayor, Governor and the media that has been fed, watered, and “taken care of” will spread their manipulation of the day to whoever will believe it. I’m thinking the “distillery” expansion story works best. Something like, “Due to the overwhelming popularity of our (shitty) products we have needed to expand.”
Slick Willie and Little Doctor Evil Joey will have a whole bunch of new toys to be photographed in front of. Real toys! Now, it will be a few years before they come out with their own aged product, but they won’t be able to resist the temptation of flooding the market with White Dog. Every mindless “mixologist” ever to be bought off by a sandwich or party in New York will then start pouring this stuff into $20 cocktails, and the unsuspecting will be happily ripped off.
I’m not the first person to bring the Michter’s/Chatham thing to light – Straight Bourbon, Bourbon Enthusiast, Sku’s Recent Eats, Whisky Advocate (or the prior identity in blog form), Chuck Cowdery and lots of others have done so. Much of what I know I got from them and my own research. I’m just the flavor of the month in a long line of Michter’s debunkers.
Under the “History of the Real Michter’s” section below, there are links to several pages with loads of comments. Josh makes it sound as though I’m the only one pissed, but I’m not. For many years others, much better and with more knowledge than I, have shown they are pissed. Here is an excerpt from a piece dated July 7, 2011, from the Whisky Advocate blog, and a comment from one of their staff at the time:
“Unfortunately, the current owners continue to perpetuate rumors of absolutely no substance, one being that George Washington and his troops had any connection to the site. That falsehood stems solely from a fanciful commemorative coin struck by the Lebanon Valley Coin Club during the 1970s depicting Washington at Schaefferstown. Michter’s did indeed use the slogan, ‘The Whiskey That Warmed the Revolution’ during that same period, simply emphasizing that the product from that location would have been available before and during the Revolutionary War, but making no other claim, ever, about any connection to Washington himself.” -Sam Komlenic
So these Chatham idiots steal the slogan and lineage from a souvenir coin?
I’m not sure why Josh chose to target my views when they are shared by so many better (and longer blogging) writers. He did little research into this issue and if he’s not now embarrassed, he should be. I’m not sure from where or whom his research came, but much of it is simply not correct. He was a guy that loved the Whiskey, normally spot on in his blog, who became star struck in a permissible con game.
Mr. Not-So-Clean Joey must have put an invisible clock over Josh’s bullshit meter; since it never went off, he never gets to any hard or controversial questions in his piece. It’s the same reason that stores and bars carry this crap and rarely stop to ask questions.
I don’t like to criticize other bloggers because I’m the last guy to cast the first stone, but if someone says something stupid like “all Bourbon is made in Kentucky,” I’ll gladly jump in if I choose to call out the blog or blogger.
Josh’s post was a softball, one-sided piece that throws in a few insignificant mentions of controversy that he pretends is balance. I’ll take on someone based on fact and often due to someone distorting their facts. Josh’s moral meter apparently stops at his palate and no further. If you want to love a sourced average or mediocre bottle that rarely gets any reputable positive reviews, so be it. If you’re drinking it with your eyes wide open to the true facts, knock yourself out, but don’t shoot the messenger because you’re the type of guy that would eat Soylent Green because you like it – even when you know what’s in it.
So, in the game of Michter’s “Hate Tag,” I guess I’m “it.” So let me take a moment to address it: If someone is dead-ass wrong, it’s a different matter. If someone hates me (which isn’t hard, as I hate myself sometimes), it’s easy. I’ve been to Kentucky a bunch of times, maybe 50. I go a few times a year. I meet and eat with some really cool people that are far up the food chain of American Whiskey, and I get to see, hear, feel and taste what’s going on, what’s happening and what’s coming up or going down. I don’t go out of my way to stir a pot for the sake of the stir, and neither does Josh.
The problem is, if I get dirty it’s crawling around a rickhouse with distilling legends, Josh gets dirty on 5th Avenue in Manhattan in the office of the CEO of Chatham Imports. When someone tells me something they want me to hear or tell, I understand why. Many times it’s as a friend or in conversation, sometimes it’s something they want to get out. My purpose is to inform, have fun, and try to get people that like what I have to say a perspective to help them in the Whiskey part of their life.
I know of at least a half dozen people that cover Whiskey for a living that got sent full bottles of Michter’s Celebration bottles, which retails for $4,000-$6,000. Most never wrote a word. Then there were a bunch whose credibility and honor was bought like a common street walker.
I’m not perfect. Occasionally, when I go out with someone from the business, they pick up the tab. I’m not in the business and Whiskey costs me money; I don’t work in the industry or get paid to blog on it. In either case, when you’re repeating what the CEO tells you as your proof, you’re doing their PR work for them, using them as your fact checker and diminishing your own worth and credibility. I’m not a writer, I’m not a journalist, nor is it my profession.
I’m not writing for industry acceptance, as I’m anonymous to 95 percent of those who read this blog. I take pride in trying to be fair and accurate with a painful bite at times. Yes, I can and often am a prick. That’s OK. Josh has every right to take me out for a spin as does anyone else when they feel I’m wrong or they have been wronged. I’ve got no problem with him. I have an e-mail address I check daily. I’ll give any brand a phone number to call that wants to speak to me. I may be anonymous, but that does not mean I hide.
Hey, Josh’s stuff is great; his Michter’s post doesn’t change how I feel about his prior or future posts, just the same as if I blast a brand my followers like and then give Four Roses accolades. I’m not a big supporter of Beam’s products but the Bookers 25th Anniversary is one of the best Bourbons I’ve ever tasted. We can all get manipulated when we’re brought to the CEO’s office of a very successful beverage company on 5th Avenue when the light is just right.
“The only thing that matters is what’s in the bottle.” Thanks, bullshit. What if slaves make it? What if it’s good counterfeit booze? What if you pay three times more for ketchup, beer, diapers, cheese, you name it, when it’s not what you think it is, but it does its job? If you say George Washington’s troops drank it, “it’s the same recipe as Michter’s,” that you’re a real distillery, that your Master Distiller is, in fact, one or has ever been one, and you know none of that’s true, I don’t care.
If you’re a beautiful woman or a Tom-Cruise-looking-guy and you’re out and your date says, “I’ve cheated and lied to my last 100 dates, let’s go out tomorrow,” what do you do? I’ll bet you leave and 95 percent of people wouldn’t go out with them again.
The whiskey business isn’t full of honesty and integrity. I understand that, but there are few if any that go to the extreme of lies and manipulation as Michter’s does. They bring bartenders, bars and retailers into the fold with the almighty dollar, naivety, false trust and greed. So, when you buy a product accepting this, what does it say about you or the respect for others you serve it to? What if your best friend is given a bottle or a drink from what you bought and they have no idea? Do you say, “Good whiskey, but the place that makes it is scum”? So even if the whiskey in the bottle is good, it’s no excuse. I robbed the bank because I was hungry!
Leading up to the recent Bourbon Classic, there was a flurry of postings from me about the Motley Crew of Heroes and Hobos at the “Legends and Master Distillers” on the panel.
Here are some photos taken from their video they produced for a promo or from their website. They took it down, but it is still on YouTube on the Wine Enthusiast Awards presentation page. This is when idiot editor Kara Newman, with the scruples of an alley cat, gives non-distiller Michter’s the 2012 Distiller of the Year award (watch the video here). I canceled my subscription after this, as I personally considered all future information coming from them to be unreliable.
They state they have two Louisville Distilleries. The bottling plant as of this writing has no distillery. The Main Street location has had no visible work done the last few years, empty inside and still held up by large braces.
Here is the doctored photo they promote:
Here are distillery photos they promote of the above empty building that are artist renderings of what is not actually there:
Willie hitting a barrel; guess it looks like he’s doing something:
No clue, maybe a toilet:
Cool dude, Red Corvette. I guess this makes him a Corvette driving fake distiller:
I think this is a model miniature of a still:
Yeah, this isn’t there either:
More CGI of the non-existent still they promote as real. Love the wall reflection that’s not possible.
Anyway, at this Bourbon Classic panel, lots of great Master Distillers where there, some very green ones were there, and Willie Pratt, the unintentional court jester, was there as well. If there ever was a time someone could laugh a brand – that was there on smoke and mirrors and an estimated $10,000 sponsorship – off stage, Pratt was it.
It was reported to me by a few people there that Joe Magliocco, CEO of Michter’s, was super embarrassed and wanted to crawl under a rock. One person joked that they are going to give Pratt a box of resume paper as his going-away present. I’d recommend Michter’s hire a bus boy from the Brown Forman dining room, so long as when he speaks in circles about nothing, he doesn’t say that there are 20,000 distilleries just because that’s how high DSP numbers go to. He’s later corrected by Drew Kulvseen of Willett, then Jimmy Russell, at which point he sheepishly giggles his way out of his moronic spotlight of embarrassment. (If you want to hear it for yourself, you can do so right here. Go to about the 40:00 mark and listen in.)
Then again, this is a guy that’s never been a Master Distiller. He was involved with barrel management and inventory at Brown Forman before he suddenly no longer worked there. I suspect the closest he got to the handle of a machine with water in it was when he used the toilet. He has never distilled or fermented a batch of anything, from what I’ve dug up. This is good, as he hasn’t had to do it at Michter’s either, because it’s a make-pretend distillery as of March 2014.
Let’s get down to taste. Black Maple Hill is a brand that the Van Winkles provided the barrels for and bottled for. It was awesome stuff. When CVI moved the brand to Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, the quality and product was awesome. It took a while for the cult following to hit the mainstream, but bartenders and many customers now scour the earth looking for remaining no-age-statement bottlings that are average-tasting $20 whiskey.
I over-use the emperor and his new cloths analogy, but it keeps being necessary. If 100 people are told camel piss is great wine, then many, many more will follow suit. So, if Michter’s is supposed to be great, it will be for many.
Josh tasted a few things that he references in his blog post. I submit that he was ill equipped with knowledge to know what he was tasting or to understand the complexity of it. Here they are:
Michter’s 20 year, bottle 12 of 220
Here’s the thing: You can’t get 220 bottles out of a 20 year old Barrel at 114 Proof. At best, it’s co-mingled barrels into one. Since small batch and single barrel have no legal definition, I could say it was aged in a flying saucer with the same credibility when dealing with Michter’s.
AH 16 Gold Foil Frankfort Bottling
There are at least 3 AH Hirsch 16 versions. Three things here: 1. The ones directly bottled by the Van Winkles are wax dipped. 2. Tanked 16 year was bottled years later at what was or would become Buffalo Trace. 3. The bottles brought from stores were re-dumped and re-bottled at KBD for the Hirsch Humidor Release. There is a difference in the three.
Michter’s 10 year 2340
Michter’s 10 year started as 1991 Stitzel Weller. The first 10 year I’m aware of is the batch 17, as in 17H. 17 was bottled 1991 juice. That’s 16 years old. The 18 batch was 17 years old, etc. The 10 batch was 19 years. Some batches were Old Bernhiem and were much older, but I’m not sure if they were as old as the Stitzel barrels. The 2012 Michters 20 was Stitzel-Weller, but the 2013 version was not the same, not even close. The 2340 Batch was much younger and average, so I’m guessing it was Brown Forman. The 2340 2012 20 year and later batches of 10 year are not that good, are not the same juice and were not bottled by KBD, according to filings. Josh now knows this, but I’m a sharing kind of guy.
(FYI: The letter such as in “10H” indicates the month bottled. So, this 10 was bottled in 2010, H is the eighth letter of the alphabet and signifies August, so it was bottled in August 2010; I happen to know it was distilled at SW on 12-31-1991.)
I’ve had each batch of 10, 20, 25 bourbon, most of the 10 and 25 year Ryes. I know much, much more about the Michter’s taste profile and lineage than Josh. My last tasting, I sent out the 10H that was a 19 year Stitzel-Weller. It was a 15-person blind tasting with 13 whiskeys put it behind a 60/40 Bernheim/Rare Breed mix, ahead of some other great ones. These were all legendary bourbons. 2007-2010, 10 year Michters age statements weren’t changed as it was more trouble that it was worth. A few years ago aging/old whiskey didn’t hold the same awe factor of today nor value. This ended with the 25 year then follow up 20’s.
The Michter’s 25 was KBD-produced and possibly one of my Top 5, as was the 2012 bottling of the 20 year by KBD. The 17, 18, 19, 10 were incredible bottles, and still are. The four digit, 13 and 14 batch bottles are average at best. Black Maple Hill had great stuff and the legend caught up to them when they were putting out the average No Age Statement (NAS) Small Batch – it’s not the same stuff. The emperor and his clothes again.
What we see, are told to believe and imagine fool us. If you’re tasting a series of Whiskeys you should do it blind with placebos, as in five glasses labeled one through five. Cover the label, pour the glasses, taste test, and then put them in order. Guess what the bottle is worth, write down the favorites after the reveal.
I’ve told people what they are drinking was Pappy, when it was Weller 107 and they rated the Weller over other great stuff. I’ve then not done it blind to the same group in the same exact glasses, and the rating differences were far off. I’ve been fooled myself, it’s easy and it’s not Josh’s fault, its all of us that taste this way with rose colored glasses on. I had the recent Jeff Ocean blind so I wouldn’t unconsciously hate it, for example.
I’m not writing this to tell you Josh has a great or bad palate. I’m not saying mine is better or worse. This is an informational thing.
So let’s look at a tour of more Chatham PR crap to cap off the deception angle. The photo below was sent to Josh before his meeting to warn him to be careful. This was taken from the Michter’s home page which I’m sure will be altered or removed very soon.
So this photo looked like it was Photoshop-ed by a 6-year-old. By law, the barrels need to have a DSP serial number. I like the multi-color, aged barrel hoops. Whoever the 6-year-old was that did this must be a wine drinker who has never stepped foot in a rickhouse in his or her life, as you rarely see red or orange bourbon barrels. They are also lazy as shit. Note when they inserted the fraudulent barrel stamp they needed to Photoshop the cables out. They never put them back, so these magic barrels are suspended by two broken cables. Someone should have hired a 7-year-old to pull this one off.
A buddy on the inside at Brown Forman told me that they sell to Michter’s, but not anything special. Essentially you’re buying typical Brown Forman stuff at inflated prices, and you are therefore paying for the lies. Maybe it can’t be called bourbon or is not aged in true Bourbon barrels.
A barrel is the most expensive component in making Bourbon, so a used barrel is much cheaper and can therefore be called “Whiskey.” But can it be called “sour mash?” Yes. Sour Mash is a normal part of fermentation of 99 percent of all American Whiskey, so that designation is nothing special. It’s simply manipulation of the uninformed.
They do an excellent job as I’ve heard bartenders, retail store staff and others recite that it’s special because it’s “sour mash;” so sad. So, a few more shots of shame.
Here’s a Michter’s barrel in a Brown Forman rick stamped with DSP-354, which is Brown Forman’s DSP number:
Here’s an idiot twitter post, as they have no distillery and use Brown Forman’s barrels:
This one’s easy: They don’t distill.
When Wine Enthusiast gave Michter’s Distiller of the Year, they mentioned Willie Pratt’s nickname is “Dr. No.” Michters says it’s because he says “NO, the whiskey isn’t ready.” I say it’s NO DISTILLERY. Here is slick Willie’s bio from Michter’s:
“Willie spent his career at Brown Forman, where he co-chaired a special committee formed to study cooperage – the art of barrel construction – and to identify optimal distillation and aging conditions for, among other things, whiskey taste, aroma, color and yields.”
That’s really sad. Sounds better than a lab or warehouse assistant or whatever his title was – if he even had one.
History of the Real Michters
If it were not for A.H. Hirsch, the name Michter’s would be lost to history the way hundreds of others were. Maryland had a bunch of distilleries making the world’s best Ryes, they are all gone and most of us have no idea what they were called, nor were their names revived and exploited.
The whiskey at Michter’s (and other prior names which I’ll cover) was average. It wasn’t until Adolph Hirsch, a former Executive at the Diageo of its day, Schenley, commissioned the distillery to make a special batch for him. He forgot about it, and when the distillery’s finances were in dire straits he was contacted with a “now or never” to come get his Whiskey. At this time, no one wanted any Whiskey. Barrels leaked in the rickhouses until dry, and much of the stocks that remained would be converted to ethanol. He didn’t want it, so it was sold off cheaply. The Van Winkles bought up a bunch for the Hue’s retail store to bottle for them. Henry Preiss had it bottled as “A.H. Hirsch” and sent to Japan. These were bottles with wax-dipped tops. Some stayed. Eventually it got famous and prices climbed. The tanked versions later bottled as 16 year with gold foil got big, with the wax tops being the best and highly sought rarities. This is where the fame and legend of Michter’s was allowed to live on. Josh’s reviewed bottle was a tanked 16 year that many enthusiasts feel is sub-par to the wax dipped.
I use several sources, but much comes from the great research that Linda did at this link.
Schaefferstown, Penn., in the selected history of distilling there:
In 1753, John Shenk (another Swiss Mennonite farmer) built a home-farm distillery near Schaefferstown, Penn., in Lebanon County. The last distillery (Michter’s) was not the same location nor was it linked to this historical one in anything but geography.
In 1790, Israel Shreve built a distillery to augment George Washington’s grist mill.
Then comes Abraham S. Bomberger. Abe’s family continued to operate until it was forced to close in 1919 by national Prohibition.
When Prohibition ended in 1933, a company named “Pennco” purchased the Bomberger distillery, and then operated it for the next 45 years until selling it in 1978 to the people who called it Michter’s.
From the web:
According to information from Preiss Imports, the distillery was purchased by Louis Forman in 1942. That would be about 35 years shy of 1978. Fowler (another source and researcher) doesn’t mention Louis Forman at all on either of her pages, but we have a ceramic jug, clearly marked Michter’s, that dates from 1942. It’s also clearly marked “Louis Forman & Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.” But they’re identified only as the brand’s sole U. S. agents, not as owners of the distillery. The jug is also somewhat ambiguous as to whether the distillery even IS the old Bomberger place located just southwest of Schaefferstown, since the address it shows links it to a location several miles in the opposite direction.
This is the link to the US Trademark search, just type in “Michter’s”.
It’s a bit cloudy on exact dates, but depending on who you go by – filings, Chuck Cowdery’s book, etc. – it appears the name came to be in the 1950s. Maybe the distillery was not renamed from Pennco until 1978-ish. In 1989, it went out of business, although some accounts put it being abandoned overnight around 1992.
It is thought, however, that Dick Stoll (the last Master Distiller) locked the doors at the close of business on February 14, 1990, for the last time.
The Trademark is abandoned and becomes free in 1997, when it is grabbed.
Dick and Elaine Stoll wrote this about early distillery ownership:
“Lou [Forman] never owned the distillery. In the early 1970s, Samuel Glass and Associates bought the distillery from Kirk Foulk. Sam Glass was the brother-in-law of Lou, so Sam made him president. Lou was the brains behind the Michter’s name and brand. The plant was contracted by Hiram Walker to make cordials, who brought in new equipment, but the plant did not expand to the level expected. Hiram Walker ended the relationship and took back the equipment.”
There’s plenty of background to tell the real story of Michter’s – Whisky Advocate is all over it. Like this piece about a tour of the original distillery.
And this piece by Sam Komlenic about the history of Michter’s.
And this guest blog by Ethan Smith that looks at the downfall of the original Michter’s.
Even this short piece from 2011 announcing the new Michter’s distillery seems a bit skeptical in its tone.
So you see, Michter’s own history is clouded, and once again, the fame is in the geography and A.H. Hirsch, mostly. Chatham’s use of a name that was created in the 20th century for marketing purposes was dug up to be used to deceive for marketing purposes.
The deception is unstoppable, as I have shown. There’s no basis for any special consideration for Michter’s unless one wants to marvel at the marketing prowess to lie and deceive. The old Chatham/Michter’s bottlings are credited to KBD barrels and bottlings of some great stuff. I’ve got no idea what the purported older bottlings of Michter’s are now. They are done at a bottling place in Ohio, according to records, and no longer any link to KBD or its stocks. I don’t address Preiss or Anchor (the current owner of the AH Hirsch and Hirsch brands) as they don’t pull the crap Michters does.
I have had almost every batch and I can tell you from my palate’s point of view the new stuff cannot hold up to the old bottling at all. They can’t even hold up to things half the price. Ninety-nine percent of the Michter’s being sold isn’t that old. Until someone proves to me it’s not Brown Forman standard recipe, that’s what I’ll go by. There is nothing wrong with Brown Forman booze but if I want Old Forester or Woodford or whatever it’s called, that’s what I’ll buy.
Now, I know what some of you geeks will say: Woodford has its own story and its own skeletons in the closest. Yes, but that’s another blog for another day.
So, in closing, Josh, this ain’t 5th Avenue, it is the truth. The Bourbon Truth.