Whisky Magazine Issue 127
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Can the historic Pennsylvania brand truly become a Kentucky distillery?
When Whisky Magazine gave me this assignment, I envisioned a lede about Michter's Pennsylvania roots and Kentucky new beginnings. I planned an anecdote about the president once selling Michter's in college and how he fell in love with the brand. A couple of decades later, his company, Chatham Imports, acquired Michter's abandoned trademarks when nobody else wanted them. This was to be a rebirth kind of storyline. But as is often the case in today's world, a story, a legacy and an introduction can take a rapid turn.
My Michter's story changed with an all-to-usual wrinkle in whiskey – a lawsuit. Chatham Imports is suing the Bomberger's Distillery owners over the trademark 'Bomberger's.' Perhaps it's fitting to begin this story with why that name even matters and explain why Michter's is always connected to its past.
Where it all started in 1753
The original Michter's distillery sits barren in Schaefferstown, Pennsylvania, its parts picked and sold and used again. Once on the prestigious National Register of Historic Places, the distillery was an American whiskey crown jewel. Now, crows fly overhead and weeds grow on the edges of buildings. The site dates back to 1753, when John Shenk owned and operated a still. By 1780, the area was a hotbed for distilleries, with 20 stills in operation. George Washington allegedly purchased whiskey from the area.
The distillery remained in the Shenk family until John's granddaughter sold it to Abe Bomberger in 1861.
Bomberger made ...