The history of Pennsylvania whiskey, as we’ve detailed in the past, has as part of its legacy the story of Rosen rye, a heritage grain that was, at one point, highly desired among distillers in this state for making rye whiskey. Rosen sadly disappeared from production when farmers no longer found customers to buy it.
Step into more recent times, and one learns the tale of Dick Stoll, the last master distiller of Michter’s when it was located in Schaefferstown, Pennsylvania in a previous incarnation. Stoll worked with Rosen during his time and, some years after retiring, partnered with one Erik Wolfe to form what would ultimately be known as Stoll & Wolfe Distillery. The focus here was to make high quality Pennsylvania whiskey once again, which meant using heritage grains like Rosen rye to recreate historic rye whiskey recipes.
Since no farmers were really actively working with Rosen any more, Wolfe turned to Laura Fields, founder of the Delaware Valley Fields Foundation, an agricultural PA non-profit. Her SeedSpark Project, according to the distillery, would spend the next few years funding the propagation of a small handful of Rosen rye seed into thousands of pounds of grain by 2019.
On September 7, 2019, Dick Stoll & Erik Wolfe ran the first batch of Keystone Rosen rye whiskey to be made in the United States in nearly half a century. That distillate filled a 30 gallon, 8-year-seasoned white oak barrel and went into the warehouse at Stoll & Wolfe Distillery the following day. It reached 2 years of age, giving it the distinction of being a straight rye whiskey, on September 8, 2021.
Now Erik and Avianna Wolfe will release their Straight Keystone Rosen Rye Whiskey as a 375 ml bottle through a lottery starting today, with the hopes of being as fair as possible to the eagerly awaiting whiskey enthusiasts hoping to buy 1 of the first 100 being released. The first sale of this release will also be in the solemn remembrance of Stoll, who passed away on August 13, 2020.
Proceeds of the sale will go toward Stoll & Wolfe’s continued work with the SeedSpark Project and toward the success of their locally based farming partner, Kline Family Farm. Eric and Wes Kline, the present farm owners and cousins to Erik Wolfe, are the 9th generation to tend their family’s preserved century farm in the heart of Lancaster County.
Going forward, it should be noted Stoll & Wolfe has more barrels of Keystone Rosen rye aging in larger barrels. Production of this will begin to ramp up this year, making this heritage rye whiskey a core product. The SeedSpark Project has harvested over 50,000 pounds of Keystone Rosen Rye this year, and now over 50 acres of it are planted in the ground (2x the amount as was planted in 2020) across the state of Pennsylvania for harvest next summer.
It is something Stoll, were he still alive, would be very proud of.
Nino Kilgore-Marchetti is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Whiskey Wash, an award winning whiskey lifestyle website dedicated to informing and entertaining consumers about whisk(e)y on a global level. As a whisk(e)y journalist, expert and judge he has written about the subject extensively, been interviewed in various media outlets and...