Bomberger's Distillery

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Bomberger's Distillery
Bombergers LebCo PA 1.jpg
Bomberger's Distillery is located in Pennsylvania
Bomberger's Distillery
Nearest city Newmanstown, Pennsylvania
Coordinates 40°16′36.9″N 76°19′12.7″W / 40.276917°N 76.320194°W / 40.276917; -76.320194Coordinates: 40°16′36.9″N 76°19′12.7″W / 40.276917°N 76.320194°W / 40.276917; -76.320194
Area 0.4 acres (0.16 ha)
Built 1840
Architect John Kratz; Abe Bomberger
Governing body Private
NRHP Reference # 75001649[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHP June 26, 1975[1]
Designated NHL January 16, 1980[2]

Bomberger's Distillery, later known as Michter's Distillery, may at the time of its closing in 1989 have been the oldest distillery in the United States. The complex, located near Schaefferstown, Pennsylvania represents the transformation of whiskey distilling from an agricultural enterprise into a large-scale industry. The still house, warehouse, and jug house date from about 1840.[3]

Bomberger's was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1980. The facility was America's smallest commercial distiller.[2][3][4]


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 buildings date to Kratzer's tenure. About 1860, Abraham Bomberger, a Pennsylvania Dutchman who had ties to the Shenk family, purchased the distillery from the Kratzer family. With Prohibition the distillery closed in 1919. Ephraim Sechrist bought the distillery in 1920, but did not operate it until 1934 after Prohibition ended, selling it to Louis Forman in 1942. Forman sold the distillery soon after he was drafted for service in World War II, but repurchased it in 1950 after two other owners.[3][4] One of these owners was Schenley Distilleries.

Forman and his master distiller, Charles Everett Beam, of the well known Kentucky distilling family, designed a premium old-fashioned pot-still mash whiskey that they named "Michter's Original Sour Mash Whiskey" after Forman's sons Michael and Peter.

In 1951 Forman distilled the first batch of Michter's, but by the time it had aged the required six years[clarification needed] a recession prevented him from selling it. The distillery was acquired by Pennco Distillers, while Forman kept the formula and the aged whiskey. Pennco then used the facility for contract distilling until 1978 and Forman distributed Michter's Whiskey through his liquor wholesaling business. About 1978 Forman and his Lebanon County backers organized Michter’s Distillery, Inc., which bought the distillery at the foreclosure sale of Pennco. Mitcher's and the distillery finally closed in 1989 after a bankruptcy filling.[4]

Old distillery, tower, and jug

Today the distillery is severely deteriorated from lack of maintenance[2] and the former owner, a woodworker named Dwight Hostetter,[5] sold it in 2011 to John Barry of JJC Investments.[6]

Since 2004, whiskeys, including bourbon, rye, and a version of the Michter's Original Sour Mash brand, made in Kentucky, have been sold under the Michter's label, now owned by Chatham Imports, Inc.[7] The company has built a new distillery in Louisville, also known as the Michter's Distillery,[8] with spirit production having commenced.

In 2014, Heritage Spirits began using the Bomberger's Distillery brand name on a small-production blend of straight whiskeys sourced from other distilleries. The blending and bottling of the new brand is done at the Thistle Finch Distillery in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.[9][10] The company has said they want to eventually open a microdistillery in Pennsylvania,[citation needed] but as of October 2014 has taken little action to do so.[9] People involved in the new venture include Dick Stoll, the 1974 master distiller of the Michter's and A. H. Hirsch brands, and local residents Erik and Avianna Wolfe.[9]

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09. 
  2. ^ a b c "Bomberger's Distillery". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2007-11-12. 
  3. ^ a b c Ralph J. Christian (March 1978). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Bomberger's Distillery / Michter's Distillery" (pdf). National Park Service.  and Accompanying 11 photos, exterior and interior, from 1978, c.1900, c.1933 and undated. PDF (0.97 MiB)
  4. ^ a b c "Louis Forman Business papers". Finding Aid. Hagley Museum and Library. Retrieved January 31, 2014. 
  5. ^ Michter's Jug House, Schaefferstown, Pennsylvania, John & Linda Lipman's American Whiskey web site, July 24, 2010
  6. ^ Michters is sold to New Owners, the Ethan Smith Blog, June 8, 2011.
  7. ^ Chatham Imports: Michter's brand web site (the current owner of the Michter's brand name).
  8. ^ "Facitities". Retrieved February 23, 2015. 
  9. ^ a b c Upton, Michael C., "Whiskey a 'go go'", Lititz Record Express, October 15, 2014.
  10. ^ Official website. Accessed February 2, 2015.

External links[edit]

  • Michter's Distillery page at The Whisky Portal
  • The Louis Forman Business papers at Hagley Museum and Library focuses on the development and marketing of Michter’s whiskey, and primarily consists of advertising campaign materials and artwork, business plans and forecasts, deeds, contracts, information on brewing and distilling processes, union contracts, testimonial letters, and other correspondence. Forman also collected genealogical and historical information about the distillery, its early owners and the Lebanon-Lancaster County region; the Shenks family; and the famous Beam family of distillers.