Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Michter's Stills Are In


A little more than three years ago, when Michter's announced that it was coming to Louisville, the hullabaloo was about restoration of the Fort Nelson Building on Main Street, where Michter's would have a visitors center and small, demonstration distillery. They incidentally mentioned they planned to build a new, production-scale distillery in the Louisville suburb of Shively too.

Since New York's Chatham Imports resurrected the Michter's brand it has been a non-distiller producer, acquiring its bourbon and other whiskey from one or more undisclosed distilleries. As the brand has grown, and bourbon in general has boomed, its suppliers have all reached their production limits. Michter's had to become a distiller.

Meanwhile, unforeseen structural problems have stymied the Main Street project. This morning, in Shively, a new Vendome 32-inch diameter column still with pot still doubler was installed. There is still much to do, but Michter's should be making whiskey there by spring. Maturation will also be done on site. Michter's has been bottling its products there for about a year.

Go here to see the new stills going in.

There have been many announcements about new whiskey distilleries recently but only three with significant capacity have actually been built: Willett in Bardstown, New Riff in Newport, and now Michter's in Shively, the biggest of the three.

The town of Shively is where most of the big distilleries went after Prohibition. The new Michter's Distillery is on Wathen Lane, which is just south of Bernheim Lane. Wathen and Bernheim are two prominent family names from bourbon history. The Michter's property is adjacent to what was once the Frankfort Distillery, aka Four Roses. Nearby is the glorious hulk of the old Seagram's plant. Brown-Forman's working distillery and Diageo's maturation and blending facility at Stitzel-Weller are also in the neighborhood.

New brands and new products come and go. Micro-distilleries are proliferating like mushrooms after the rain. New large-scale distilleries like this are still a rarity. Congratulations to the Michter's team. This is a big deal.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why are you publicizing these guys? They are among the worst of the "potemkin" / "deceiving" bottlers out there?

Chuck Cowdery said...

I've been one of their harshest critics, but you can't argue with what they're doing in Shively. There is nothing Potemkin about it.

Jon Hill said...

Potemkin or not, I have been a huge fan of several of their NDP products. Some of the blends show a deft hand and flavor wise blender is at the controls. I hope to live long enough to taste mature product from Shively.

Sam Komlenic said...

This is really monumental news, for exactly the reasons you note, Chuck. They have been doing exceptional work with their sourced whiskeys, including the new Toasted Barrel expression, and now they'll be ramping up the biggest new American distillery to date.

Also, in the video you'll note the effort they put into the design of that doubler. A beautiful thing!

I look forward to my next visit to Louisville and their operating distillery!

Edwin Vargas said...

Agreed, Chuck. They are putting themselves out their with this investment. If they can't make good Bourbon its on them. It they can then kudos.

Sam Komlenic said...

Hey, I sort of forgot about the new Wild Turkey still...sorry.

Anonymous said...

Time for a nice helping of crow...

Anonymous said...

The difference between Michter's and other NDP distilleries is that these days the Master Distiller himself will go to a distillery and personally run his own mash bill using their equipment. From what I was told, the U.S. 1 bourbon/rye and Sour Mash that are on the shelves these days are produced this way. I can't remember when he said the 10+ year product will be his own juice, but it is within the next year or so.

Chuck Cowdery said...

That's not the difference. In fact, that's largely spin, i.e., bunk. The difference is that Michter's has invested millions in becoming a real distiller. That's a feat few others have attempted, let alone achieved.

Anonymous said...

My great great grand pappy would only have sex with the daughters of master distillers so his kin would only have the true blood of master distillers running through their veins when the went on to recreate the recipe that was given to him by an ancient Aztec god.....blah, blah, blah...

What a bunch of crap. The head distiller of XYZ company wouldn't even know what button to push on the computer to start the conveyer of his contract whiskey producer.

Sam Komlenic said...

It would not be outside the realm of possibilities for Michter's staff to be on the distilling floor overseeing production by the house distillers while their juice was being run though, would it?

Chuck Cowdery said...

The claims to that effect are an exaggeration. What they do is no different from what any other NDP does for contract production. It would, for one thing, be superfluous to have your people there 'supervising,' since the contractor knows what it's doing.

Anonymous said...

Good news, am from the original location of Michter's back in PA and their current Rye and Sour Mash are stock on my bar... only one of two NDP's I purchase. Can't wait until Main Street setup is done... is definitely a lengthy process.