Dick Stoll, the forgotten man of Michter's

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Dick Stoll, the forgotten man of Michter's

Unread postby cowdery » Wed Jun 10, 2009 1:41 pm

It has always been assumed that Everett Beam, who was Master Distiller at Michter's, was there until the very end, but I've always had my doubts, as Beam died in 1989, right about the same time Michter's did, at the age of 82. In fact, according to Mr. Stoll, Everett Beam had a serious heart attack in 1973-74 (Stoll doesn't remember exactly when), after which he retired. He would have been about 66. Stoll believes Beam lived in Schaefferstown for maybe a year after he retired, then moved back to Kentucky where he lived until his death.

Dick Stoll, now 75 years old, started at Michter's in March, 1955, shortly after it was acquired by Pennco. He was originally a laborer but learned distilling from Beam, a experienced distiller who started there at about the same time. From 1949 until 1952, the distillery was operated by a guy named Kirk who made Kirk's Pure Rye Whiskey. The new company acquired the whiskey Kirk still had aging and also bought aged whiskey from Continental, so they would have something to sell right away.

As time went on, Pennco made whiskey for its own brands and also sold whiskey to other producers. They made Wild Turkey Rye and Brown-Forman's Baltimore Pure Rye at various times.

The operation was pretty successful until Hurricane Agnes in 1972. They were flooded out and shut down for a long time. When they came back, with Lou Forman as president, that's when they started doing whatever they could to survive. It was then that Forman changed the name to Michter's, a name he created from the first names of his sons Michael and Peter.

The all pot still mini distillery was put in for the bicentennial in 1976.

Stoll remembers Adolph Hirsch as a whiskey broker who bought whiskey from Pennco, as Lou Forman did (no relation to Brown-Forman). When the place started to fold, Hirsch quickly got his whiskey out and sent to Kentucky, about 400 barrels worth. That's the whiskey that became A. H. Hirsch bourbon.

The distillery changed hands a couple more times during the 70s and early 80s, until ownership reverted to Continental National Bank, which retained a variety of increasingly shady characters to run it. Toward the end they were mashing only about 300 bushels a day. Then they shut down the main distillery altogether but kept running the mini-distillery. They continued to have a steady tourism business to the very end.

On Feb 14, 1990, Stoll got a call from the bank, telling him to shut everything down. Thereafter, whenever there was a potential buyer or something else going on, Stoll would get the call. In 1993-94, the bank hired him to do an inventory of the remaining barrels. There were about 40,000, far fewer than the hundreds of thousands reported in the press at that time.

He's not sure what happened to it, except that it was hauled away in barrels. He heard the rumors that it had been redistilled into pure alcohol to use as 'racing fuel' but he never believed that. Except for a batch of whiskey they made from some moldy malt, which they sold to a South Korean company, it was all good whiskey, according to Stoll.

Since 1990, the property has been sold a couple of times for back taxes.

Stoll confirmed something I concluded a few years ago, which is that the only pot still involved in Michter's pot still whiskey was the doubler. It was never all pot still. At the time when they were pushing the pot still angle they were one of the few distilleries, at least in Pennsylvania, that was still doubling, so it was a point of difference, but it was never all pot still.

Stoll lives in Lebanon but has a fishing buddy who lives near the old plant, so he gets by there now and then, and always sheds a little tear for what might have been.
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Re: Dick Stoll, the forgotten man of Michter's

Unread postby mozilla » Wed Jun 10, 2009 3:36 pm

Nice info...thanks for that.

I guess no distillery is..just one man?
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Re: Dick Stoll, the forgotten man of Michter's

Unread postby Mike » Sun Jun 14, 2009 3:40 pm

Thanks, Chuck, for sharing this interesting piece of history and giving Dick Stoll his due.
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. - Dylan Thomas
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