Editor’s Note: These whiskeys were provided to us as review samples by Stoll & Wolfe Distillery. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy links throughout this article our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
Dick Stoll isn’t a household name on par with Jack Daniel or John Walker or James Beauregard Beam. (Though he does have the advantage of being alive, unlike those gentlemen.) Stoll, however, is a blue-chipper in his own right – trained by C. Everett Beam, Jim Beam’s grandnephew, Stoll went on to be master distiller at the original Michter’s distillery in Pennsylvania.
When Michter’s closed its doors in 1990 (the brand was later acquired by a new owner and moved to Kentucky), Stoll left the whiskey business and worked until retirement for the local school district. But whiskey wasn’t done with him yet.
Stoll came out of retirement six years ago to co-found a new distillery along with Erik Wolfe and Avianna Ponzi Wolfe. The trio wanted to bring the whiskey business back to the Lebanon-Lancaster area, and eventually opened a beautiful, new distillery and tasting room in Lititz, Pennsylvania.
The Stoll & Wolfe Distillery is still sourcing juice from MGP at this point, but Avianna says they have been operating their own continuous-distillation column with a doubler for the past year, making rye, bourbon and apple brandy under Stoll’s watchful eye. When they feel like the quality is high enough, she says, they’ll stop sourcing and switch entirely to their own product.
In the meantime, Stoll & Wolfe uses locally grown corn and rye from Pennsylvania, and implements a sweet-mash process for its ryes. It’s the basics, Stoll says, that C. Everett Beam taught him decades ago.
The Stoll & Wolfe whiskies are sold only in Pennsylvania at the moment, which is a shame. Avianna says they’re working on adding New Jersey, Illinois and the District of Columbia to the list soon. Regardless, Stoll & Wolfe shows a lot of promise for a startup. The ryes, in particular, are worth searching out if you happen to find yourself in Pennsylvania any time soon.
Tasting Notes: Stoll & Wolfe Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey
Vital Stats: Aged three years; 90 proof/45% ABV; mash bill of 65% rye, 25% corn, 10% malted barley; $49.99 for a 750 ml bottle.
Appearance: Amber, strawberry blonde
Nose: Orange peel, cinnamon, soggy oak, honey, marzipan.
Palate: The expected wave of rye spice hits you right away, but it smooths out quickly. It goes down easily for a whiskey with so much spice up front. It helps that there’s a sweetness underneath, with citrus undertones and hints of something nutty.
Final Thoughts: The Stoll & Wolfe rye, Avianna says, is “somewhere between a Kentucky rye and a western-Pennsylvania rye.” It’s aged in a combination of 30-gallon and 53-gallon barrels – with the larger barrels also having a deeper char. Whatever it is, it drinks well neat.
Tasting Notes: Cask Strength Stoll & Wolfe Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey (Barrel 211)
Vital Stats: Aged three years; single barrel; 105 proof/52.5% ABV; $69.99 for a 750ml bottle.
Appearance: Amber, strawberry blonde
Nose: Orange bitters, honey, spicy-sweet cloves, soggy oak, powdered sugar.
Palate: Like the lower-proof version, this one hits you in the mouth immediately with rye spiciness. But it, too, smooths out into a nice, long finish. I taste green peppercorn on the tip of my tongue, almonds, allspice and warm gingerbread cake.
Final Thoughts: If you have a hankering for rye, this would be a nice daily drinker. It’s smooth and straightforward, but with enough personality to keep you coming back. I have a bias toward high-proof whiskies, and I’d pay $20 extra to get the higher-proof version of this one. With just the tiniest splash of water, it opens up nicely and drinks easily.
Tasting Notes: Stoll & Wolfe Bourbon and Rye Blend (Batch 14)
Vital Stats: 80% bourbon aged for 5 years and 20% rye aged 3 years; 86 proof/43% ABV; $59.99 for a 750 ml bottle.
Appearance: dirty straw
Nose: Definitely get the corn smell in this one that you don’t in the ryes. Also butterscotch, hints of vanilla and maple syrup.
Palate: There’s something interesting going on here, but I don’t love it the same way I do the ryes. It doesn’t give me the deep corn sweetness I want in a bourbon, and isn’t distinctive enough in its rye undertones to get my mouth watering. It starts off light, and eventually offers a little heat at the back of the throat.
Final Thoughts: There are plenty of high-rye bourbons I enjoy. This one appears to be neither fish nor fowl, however. It doesn’t offer enough of the bourbon sweetness or the rye spiciness I was really hoping to find. That doesn’t mean I didn’t happily drink it, just that I didn’t enjoy it as much as the Stoll & Wolfe ryes.
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Scott Bernard Nelson
Scott Bernard Nelson is a writer, actor and whiskey reviewer in Portland, Ore. When he's not working, you can often find him fly fishing or rock climbing in the Pacific Northwest.