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Michter's Jug House

Michter’s Distillery in Schaefferstown, Pennsylvania was the foster home of A.H. Hirsch Reserve bourbon. Dating back to the mid-eighteenth century, Michter’s was distilling whiskey. As early as 1753 there was a small distillery on this Pennsylvania farmstead; that’s long before Kentucky was even settled. Thirty years later the farm’s owner decided to concentrate on whiskey production, which makes it one of the oldest commercial distilleries in the country. The distillery stayed in the family for years until Abe Bomberger, a relative by marriage, bought it in 1860,  gave the distillery its primary name—his—and distilled rye there until Prohibition closed him down. During prohibition, the plant was sold to a local farmer, who may have fired up the old stills every so often just to keep his neighbors happy. Louis Forman took it over in 1942, but he left abruptly to serve in the Army, not returning until 1950. It was then that he discovered records from Abe Bomberger’s time of ownership, and Forman began researching the history of the distillery and the methods once used to produce the whiskey. He decided to install a pot still, and hired Charles Everett Beam as master distiller. Mr. Beam—a direct descendant of Jacob Beam himself—was delighted at the opportunity to make great bourbon—the kind he had never been allowed to make because it was deemed too expensive; Mr. Forman, on the other hand, was committed to craft good whiskey, regardless of the cost. Hence, Michter’s Pot Still Whisky hit the market. It was 1956.

Adolf H. Hirsch, a former executive of the Schenley Co., bought some aged stocks of the whiskey and bottled a 16 year old and a 20 year old [sold out] under the A.H. Hirsch label, and the classic pot still bourbon was long ago transferred to stainless steel tanks to keep it from ageing further. Fortunately Henry Preiss kept the historic brand alive, but this extraordinary spirit exists on borrowed time.

Michter’s Distillery finally closed in 1988 after making the only post-Prohibition pot still Bourbon in America. The vacant Michter’s Distillery itself, despite being listed on the National Historic Register, has passed through several hands since it closed, and has sadly become a dilapidated shell of its former self; the old rickhouses a reminder of a more spirited past. Hirsch Reserve stands in the class of top-flight single malt scotch whisky and Grand Champagne cognac.