The Whiskey Rebels: How Michter's Revolutionized American Rye And Bourbon

July 5, 2018

When Pam Heilmann completed one of her first distillations of Michter’s American Whiskey in 2015, the incoming master distiller proudly came to Joe Magliocco, Michter’s owner, with the technical results: From the hundreds of bushels of grain, she was able to produce an extra barrel of whiskey, the equivalent of about 200 bottles. That kind of efficiency mattered in her previous job running distilling operations at Jim Beam’s Booker Noe plant (which makes Knob Creek and Booker’s bourbons, among others). Magliocco, however, was interested in only one thing.

“I said, ‘Pam, that’s really nice,’ ” Magliocco recalls, “ ‘but how the hell’s the whiskey taste?’ ”

Such straight shooting is a hallmark of the 60-year-old New Yorker, but the focus on quality over quantity is one of the reasons he brought Michter’s back from the dead in the first place. In the mid-’90s, when consumption of American whiskey was at a nadir, Magliocco was looking to add a premium rye to his portfolio at Chatham Imports in Manhattan—ideally with a brand the market had forgotten.

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