Michter’s is an old brand of American bourbon and rye whiskies irrevocably interlinked in with the Bomberger’s distillery, despite the former only emerging in the 1950s, and the later dating back to 1753.
In 1753, John and Michael Shenk, Swiss Mennonite farmers, began distilling rye whiskey at the site. John Shenk’s son-in-law, Rudolph Meyer, acquired the distillery and another relative, John Kratzer, ran the business from 1827 to about 1860. Several of the building’s tenure dates originated from Kratzer. Around 1860 Abraham Bomberger, a Pennsylvania Dutchman with ties to the Shenk family, bought the distillery from the Kratzer family. With the introduction of Prohibition the family closed the distillery in 1919. Ephraim Sechrist bought the distillery in 1920, but it was not working until 1934 following the repeal of Prohibition.
Louis Forman bought the old Bomberger’s distillery for the first time in 1942, but sold it again shortly afterwards, as it was requisitioned for military use during the Second World War. The distillery was briefly owned by Schenley Distilleries. In 1950 he bought the distillery a second time and set about developing a Pot Still Sour Mash Whiskey with his master distiller Charles Everett Beam (from the well-known distilling dynasty of the Kentucky Beams), for which the distillation company in his 1951 Michter’s distillery began. Named after his two sons Michael and Peter, “Michter’s” was a deliberate made-up word.
In 1951 Forman distilled the first batch of Michter’s, but by the time he had aged the required 6 years a recession forced Forman to sell his distillery to the Pennco Distiller.
The distillery was taken over by Pennco Distillers, while Forman retained trademark rights and the already finished whiskey. Pennco then used the facility for the distilling contract until 1978 and Forman Michter whiskey distributed through its wholesaling fleet. About 1978 Forman and his Lebanon County supporters organized Michter Distillery, Inc., which bought the distillery at Pennco’s foreclosure sale.
In 1975 the distillery was finally renamed Michter’s. Due to the low demand for whiskey in the USA in the 70s and 80s, production was reduced to a minimum and the distillery concentrated on the tourism branch. As a fully functional show distillery, it showed guests how whiskey was distilled in the 17th and 18th centuries. The production consisted of only one barrel per day. In 1989 Michter Distillery Inc. declared bankruptcy, the distillery was closed and has since been largely demolished.
The complex, located near Schaefferstown, Pennsylvania, represented the transformation of whiskey distilleries from a farm to large-scale industry. The surviving still house, warehouse, and pitcher house dates from about 1840, but the site has a documented history of the spirit of production since 1753. Bomberger was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1980. The plant was America’s smallest commercial distiller at the time of its closure in 1989.
While there are whiskey products currently on the market using the Bomberger and Michter brand names, more recently products have been introduced that have no direct connection to the old distillery.
|Name||Pronounced||AKA||Region||Country of Origin|
|Bomberger's||Original Michter's Distillery; Pennco Distillers||Pennsylvania||USA|
|Status||Active||Whisky Type||Website||Tours Available|
|Closed||1840 - 1989||Rye||Bomberger's||Not Available|
|Manager||Distiller||Blender||Owned by||Parent Group|
Can I tour Bomberger's?
No, unfortunately Bomberger's distillery is not open to the public for tours