Location: Louisville, Kentucky
Founded: 1753 as John Shenks (Pennsylvania), recreated in 1950’s as Michter’s and reborn in 1990’s
Mater Distiller: Pamela Heilmann
Grains: Kentucky sourced Non-GMO grains
Mash bills: Varies across expressions
A whiskey story since 1753
At one point known as Shenk’s and later as Bomberger’s, the whiskey company which ultimately became Michter’s was founded by John Shenk in Schaefferstown, Pennsylvania in 1753. In its early days, Shenk’s produced whiskey from rye grain that was local to the Pennsylvania Blue Mountain Valley where the distillery was located.
According to Pennsylvania historical lore, this particular rye whiskey was so valued that when the Revolutionary War broke out, General George Washington visited the distillery and purchased whiskey to fortify his men as they hunkered down in their camp through the long, brutal winter thus garnering the reputation for Michter’s being the whiskey that warmed the American Revolution.
Pennsylvania Dutchman Abraham Bomberger purchased the distillery, in the mid 1800’s, and it became known for many decades as Bomberger’s.
Prohibition, in 1919, forced the distillery to close its doors. The distillery did reopen after the repeal of Prohibition and changed hands many times over the next few decades and frequently occupied a precarious financial position. During the 1950s, Lou Forman, one of the distillery’s owners, created the Michter’s brand name by combining portions of his sons’ names, Michael and Peter.
In the late 1980’s clear spirits were fashionable and American whiskey suffered a prolonged downturn. Michter’s declared bankruptcy and abandoned the premises, leaving its Pennsylvania operations in disrepair and the Michter’s name to be lost to history.
In the 1990s, Joseph J. Magliocco and Richard “Dick” Newman teamed up to resurrect Michter’s. Magliocco was intimately familiar with the brand through his college days of imbibing, bartending, and selling Michter’s.
Newman’s history was somewhat different. After serving in the US Marine Corps (for which he earned a Purple Heart) he followed with an illustrious career in whiskey, eventually running Old Grand-Dad, Old Crow, and Old Taylor for National Distillers before becoming President and CEO of Wild Turkey Distiller, Austin Nichols.
Magliocco and Newman began with a simple strategy – to honour the Michter’s legacy by producing the best whiskey possible, cost be damned! They acquired the Michter’s trademark and made their first major strategic decision, to distil in Kentucky, in the heart of the modern American whiskey industry, to ensure access to the best whiskey talent and resources available.
Today, Michter’s has three locations in Kentucky – a 78,000 square foot distillery in the Shively section of Louisville, the architecturally significant Fort Nelson Building on Louisville’s Museum Row and 145 acres of farm land in Springfield where it proudly sources its Non-GMO grains.