Local Distiller Changes Name and Plans New Distillery

By on July 29, 2015

Faced with taking on the large alcohol distributor Chatham Imports and spending over $100,000 in legal costs to preserve its trademark claim, Heritage Spirits, producers of Lititz-based Bomberger’s Whiskey, have decided defending the claim is not a viable financial option. On Monday, July 27, co-owner Erik Wolfe officially scuttled the Bomberger’s Whiskey name and began rebranding as Stoll & Wolfe, the last names of the brand’s founding members.

“We were facing an endless series of litigation,” he said. “Our vision has always been preservation via production … The name is less important than the action at a certain point. We just want to get up and running, and we’ve been delayed far too long.”

“We need to be putting money into the actual distillery and not spending it on legal fees,” added co-owner Arianna Wolfe.

The creation of Bomberger’s Whiskey was a way for the Wolfes and partners Dick and Elaine Stoll to preserve a part of Pennsylvania whiskey production history. The Bomberger’s story begins in 1753 with farmers John and Michael Shenk. The two started using excess rye to make whiskey. The distillery, located just outside of Schaefferstown, became known as Bomberger’s in 1860 when purchased by Abraham Bomberger. Eventually, the distillery became known as Michter’s, which ceased operations in 1989. At Michter’s, Dick Stoll rose through the production ranks to become master distiller.

The men behind the name — Dick Stoll (right) & Erik Wolfe

The men behind the name — Dick Stoll (right) & Erik Wolfe

The abandoned Michter’s trademark was claimed by Chatham Imports in 2011, and the company began bottling whiskey under the label in Kentucky.

Issues between Heritage Spirits and Chatham Imports arose with the Chatham-owned Michter’s release of Bomberger’s Declaration whiskey shortly after Heritage Spirits’ Bomberger’s Whiskey came off the bottling line. According to United States Patent and Trademark Office records, Stoll and company trademarked Bomberger’s Distillery in December 2012. In February 2013, Chatham Imports registered Bomberger’s Declaration. Heritage Spirits filed a cease and desist order against Chatham’s Bomberger’s Declaration and the two parties headed into litigation.

Chatham Imports distributes 18 brands of wine and spirits, most notably Michter’s Whiskey, Farmer’s Organic Gin, and Finian’s Irish Whiskey. In operation since 1988, the New York-based company boasts an estimated $1.9 million in annual revenues. Intellectual Property lawyer and Chatham Imports counsel Peter D. Vogl did not respond to interview requests.

In a press release from early March, Chatham Imports President Joseph J. Maggliocco addressed the situation: “We never have and will not now engage in a public discussion of issues that should remain strictly confidential. We wholeheartedly believe in good faith that both the facts and the law support our rights to the brand Bomberger’s Declaration. Although we hope that legal action is not necessary to resolve this matter, we are highly confident that the courts will agree with us.”

Bomberger’s Whiskey quickly became popular with whiskey aficionados and cocktail enthusiasts, and the first two batches of the whiskey blend, 2,717 bottles, quickly sold out. Bomberger’s whiskey now only lives on the shelves of those who have squirreled away a bottle. Due to pending litigation, the sale of any remaining bottles were frozen and the spirit is currently unavailable.

“The history we represent, of which Dick Stoll is the embodiment, really touched people,” said Erik. “We know of people who don’t even drink whiskey who bought some just to put on their mantles.”

“A lot of people want the history of Pennsylvania whiskey to come back,” said Arianna.

Erik Wolfe

Erik Wolfe

Through Stoll & Wolfe, the group will continue its mission to preserve Pennsylvania history through local spirits. Erik said a location in Lititz has been secured for the company’s distillery, but declined to elaborate on specifics due to current occupants.

“We are hoping to be open by early 2016,” he said. “Even though this has taken longer than we have thought, we are just overwhelmed by the support we have received from people. It has kept us going and has told us that what we are doing is the right thing.”

The next right thing … is Stoll & Wolfe whiskey made predominantly with rye, followed by an apple brandy.

Michael C. Upton is a freelance writer specializing in arts and leisure. He is a regular contributor to the Record Express entertainment section. He welcomes reader feedback at somepromcu@gmail.com and facebook.com/SomebodiesProductions.

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