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A Road Trip Explores Pennsylvania’s Rye Whiskey

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Broad Ford, Pennsylvania — Broad Ford Distillery, or its wreckage, is located along the Eugiogeny River, about 40 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. Once one of the largest producers of rye whiskey in the country, it used to use company housing on a private pedestrian bridge across the river.

However, Broadford closed in 1951 and Now it is abandonedThe blonde brick veneer has collapsed, its interior is flooded and covered with graffiti.

“This is the remnant of the largest rye whiskey distillery ever operated in the United States, as far as I am concerned,” said Sam Komrenick, a Pennsylvania distillation history expert, around the ruins. Occasionally take visitors to an informal tour of.

Broad Ford created a style of whiskey called Old Manongahira, which is unique to Pennsylvania. It adopted mash bills or recipes rather than a single grain of corn, unlike rye, barley, and almost every other whiskey made in the United States. Like Broadford, the style had a glorious era — Herman Melville names it with “Moby-Dick” — it almost disappears after the ban.

However, as the number of distilleries across the country grows (from just a few tens to over 2,000 20 years ago), there is also growing interest in reviving the forgotten style.

Currently, there are nearly 50 distilleries operating in Pennsylvania, mainly in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Many of them make and serve rye whiskey, and some easily fit into state-wide weekend trips starting near Philadelphia.

Rye whiskey, including Old Manon Gahira, peaked in production during the cocktail boom of the early 20th century and provided the backbone of many of the most popular drinks of the time.

“Old recipes for classic cocktails often require rye whiskey, such as Manhattan or old-fashioned Sazerac,” said Herman Miharrich, founder of. Mountain Laurel SpiritsAt a distillery in Bristol, on the northeastern suburbs of Philadelphia, make a line of rye called a daddy’s hat.

When it opened in 2010, Mountain Laurel was Pennsylvania’s main distillery, operating for the first time in 20 years. The new venture was to regain the state’s past as much as to envision the future. Miharrich was inspired by his childhood when he lived on top of his family bar in Monessen near Pittsburgh.

Dad’s hat uses the classic old monongahera recipe for rye and barley, but Miharich and his partner John S. Cooper once held sweet vermouth and ports on aged rye. Put it in a barrel and add a modern twist to some of the whiskey. Add a layer of silky and fruity complexity.

Another distillery, New freedomNortheast of downtown Philadelphia, does something similar to whiskey called Fortuner’s Fate. It spends time in barrels that once had sherry, like the victims of Edgar Allan Poe’s story “Amontilla Ad Barrels”.

“I’ve been inspired by the past, but I didn’t want it to be a perfect repeat,” said founder Robert Kassel.

It is located in the small town of Rititz, about 90 minutes west of Philadelphia. Stoll & Wolfe Distillery.. One of the founders, Dick Stoll, was the last manager of Michter’s, a distillery a few miles north closed in 1990 (in 1996, a New York-based company acquired Michter’s abandoned trademark. And restarted in Kentucky).

Mr. Stall was widely regarded as one of the best distilleries in the United States, but after Michter closed, he was desperate to work and became a road construction crew. He didn’t expect to return to distillation, but in 2012 he had only recently learned about the history of the state’s whiskey, but Eric Wolf, who lived near Michter’s distillery as a kid. I met you.

“When I grew up, I never knew there was a whiskey tradition,” Wolff said.

Founded in 2017 by two men, Stoll & Wolfe is almost isolated among Pennsylvania rye distillers in that it uses corn in its recipes. Wolfe nods to the abundant cornfields around Lititz. Distilleries buy most of their grain locally from farmers who harvest using traditional, sometimes human or animal-powered machines.

Stoll & Wolfe released their first rye six months ago in February 2020. Mr. Stall died at the age of 86..

The area around Lititz was the starting point for 18th-century settlers heading west across the Appalachian Mountains. There are many Conestoga covered wagons packed with whiskey barrels or still images to make them. Due to the lack of hard currency, whiskey was often a substitute for money.

“Going west or south, the currency was of little use, especially during the revolution,” Wolff said. “If they have Maryland dollars or Massachusetts dollars, use them somewhere else and do your best.”

These early settlers, including a man named Philadelphia, eventually found themselves in conflict with the new Philadelphia-based federal government. President George Washington and his Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton have taxed whiskey to pay the debt of the American Revolutionary War. This put a heavy burden on the frontier community.

Wigle helped lead what became known as Whiskey rebellion, When settlers in western Pennsylvania stood up against taxes. In 1794, Washington, led by Hamilton, sent thousands of troops to quell the rebellion. The army arrested Uighurs and dozens of others, and the anxiety subsided, though not hostile. For decades, locals hung Hamilton’s portrait upside down as a sign of contempt. Some people still do so.

“You will see it in people’s homes,” said founder Ellen Huff. Mingo Creek Craft Distillery, A Washington Distillery about 25 miles south of Pittsburgh. “They say,’Oh, yes, we made Alex upside down all of our lives.'”

Huff and his family (husband Jim and his sons Kevin and Rob) create a line of rye whiskey called Liberty Paul. It’s the textbook Old Monongahera, which is grassy and fruity with an undercurrent of pepper-like spices.

Part of the charm of Old Manongahira, apart from its history, is that rye grows particularly well in western Pennsylvania and much better than in Kentucky.

When Meredith Meyer Greli and her family decided to open a distillery in Pittsburgh in 2010, due to the region’s history and agricultural bounty, they chose rye as the center of the lineup, named after Philip Wiggle. I named the new whiskey.

“We wanted to help American whiskey regain the taste of the region, the terroir,” Greli said. “And our starting point as Pittsburgh was to first pursue the famous Old Mononga rye.”

Washington may have shown federal power over the hinterland, but in doing so he helped build a regional identity centered on whiskey. By the early 19th century, hundreds of commercial distilleries were operating in western Pennsylvania, almost all of which became Old Manongahira.

The whiskey was smooth and peppery. With a sweeter style of rye made in Maryland, Old Manongahira quickly became one of America’s dominant spirits when Kentucky whiskey was just beginning.

“The fourth immortal of July. Today we have to drink wine in every fountain!” Melville wrote in “Moby-Dick” in 1851. “Now it was an old Orleans whiskey, or an old Ohio, or an indescribable old Manongahera!”

Now, after almost a century of oblivion, Pennsylvania rye is finally back. Rye whiskey is one of the fastest growing spirits categories in the country.

I have it now Whiskey Rebellion Trail, A consortium of distilleries and historic sites around the Mid-Atlantic.And this fall, the spirits giant Beam suntory We are releasing an old monongahera version of Old Overholt, Famous Pennsylvania whiskey brand Acquired in 1987.

Old Overholt is named after Abraham Oberholt, whose family founded a huge distillery in Broad Ford, but made their start in a place called West Overton, 40 miles south of Pittsburgh. ..In a complex of museums called today West Overton VillageKomlenic, a whiskey expert, is helping to create an exhibition on the history of Pennsylvania whiskey.

West Overton Village is also entering the whiskey business. Last year, Komrenick oversaw the release of a very small amount of old monongahera distilled and aged in one of the museum’s buildings. A spicy, rustic and herbaceous taste that reflects Pennsylvania’s long distillation past, and perhaps its future.

Mountain Laurel Spirits 925 Canal Street, Bristol, PA; 215-781-8300; dadshatrye.com

New Liberty Distillery 1431 Cadwallader Street, Philadelphia; 267-928-4650; newlibertydistillery.com

Stoll & Wolfe Distillery 35 North Cedar Street Rear, Lititz, PA; 717-799-4499; stollandwolfe.com

Mingo Creek Craft Distillery 68 West Maiden Street, Washington, PA; 724-503-4014; libertypolespirits.com

Uighur whiskey 2401 Smallman Street, Pittsburgh; 412-224-2827; wiglewhiskey.com

West Overton Village 109 West Overton Road, Scottdale, PA; 724-887-7910; westovertonvillage.org

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