Miniature Whiskey Bottles Prohibition Era Medicinal Whiskey Whiskey History

Old Whiskey Bottle Sizes in Review

From left to right: a quart, pint, 1/2 pint, 1/4 pint, and 1/10 pint.

Over the years I have been chasing a complete run of the same brand of prohibition whiskey bottle sizes: quart, pint, 1/2 pint, 1/4 pint, and 1/10 pint. As it turns out, my quest is impossible to complete, which I will detail here in a minute. Because of this, I have done the next best thing by including two post-prohibition bottles and one brand that doesn’t match but fills in the 1/4 pint slot.

Whiskey Bottle Sizes: Quart

My original goal was to acquire an example of unopened whiskey in each size from the prohibition era (1920 through 1933). First, let’s cover the sizes. On the far left, we have a quart of Old McBrayer Brand Straight Bourbon Whiskey. As far as my research has sussed out, quarts were never sold during prohibition. What’s interesting about this bottle is the whiskey inside was laid down in 1917 and bottled in 1933 so it fits the same date range as many of the other bottles I own. Since prohibition ended in 1933, this whiskey was either taken from 4 existing pints and re-bottled, which was a common practice at the time, or it was bottled straight from the barrel (I believe it was the prior). Either way, there was a brief time when quarts were being bottled without the “Federal Law Prohibits Sale or Re-use of This Bottle” embossed on the glass (1933 through 1935) and this bottle does not have that feature. This is very neat and rare example. Distiller: Allen Bradley Co. Distillery No. 97.

Whiskey Bottle Sizes: Pint

The next bottle, going left to right from the quart, is a pint of Old McBrayer Whiskey (notice how the word Brand was omitted). This is one of the most common prohibition era bottles you will find as a collector but is still a really nice bottle. However, this one is in dead mint condition with one of the best fill levels you will ever see, which makes it a condition rarity. Laid down in 1915 and bottled in 1933, this example boasts a 10 cent California tax stamp decal on the back, which means it was prohibition overstock and sold post-prohibition. Distiller: Allen Bradley Co. Distillery No. 97.

Whiskey Bottle Sizes: 1/2 Pint

The next bottle to the right of the pint is a 1/2 pint Old McBrayer Whiskey. Much harder to find than the pint sized version, this bottle is interesting because the whiskey is noticeably lighter, which is not a huge surprise when you consider it was not distilled by Allen Bradley Co. but rather by Joseph Schwab, Jr. Distillery No. 409. This is another example of the main brand being different than the distiller listed on the tax stamp. Distilled 1917 and bottled 1932.

Whiskey Bottle Sizes: 1/4 Pint

Continuing to the right is an extremely rare 1/4 pint of Antique Whiskey. I know of only two brands that can be found in this size with the other being Old Barbee. [Edit 10/22/17: I forgot about the 1/4 pint Old Grand Dad that pops up every now and then so that makes three] So, if whiskey during prohibition was sold for medicinal purposes what is the point of something this small, which could be easily consumed in a single sitting? Could it be this was a sample bottle given to doctors to give to their patients along with their prescription much like they do with drug samples today? This seems to be the best explanation as far as I’m concerned. Makes a great story, anyway. Distilled 1915 and bottled 1928.  Distiller: The A. Keller Company Distillery No. 9 (not sure if the distillery number is correct as the tax stamp is hard to read).

Whiskey Bottle Sizes: 1/10 Pint

Finally, we have a 1/10 pint version of Old McBrayer Brand Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. Unfortunately, the angels took their full share on this one. I include this bottle since it matches my other Old McBrayers. The decal Illinois tax stamp is dated 1937. According to whiskey historians and my own research, miniature whiskey bottles were never issued during prohibition, which makes perfect sense to me. Mini whiskey bottles, when not being served on trains or  airplanes, were by and large produced so people could sample the wares before buying in bulk. There is certainly no reason the US Government would approve the sale of minis during prohibition since the loophole of selling medicinal whiskey was already stretched about as wide as possible. Or was it? Here is proof of the existence of a 1/10 pint miniature whiskey tax stamp that was made for E.H. Taylor that was bottled smack dab in the middle of prohibition:


Unfortunately, no authentic miniature Old Taylor whiskey bottles have ever been found with one of these tax stamps that I know of. Could this stamp be a prototype? Was it ever used? 

I hope you have enjoyed this post and find the history of these bottles as interesting as I do. Cheers!

Prohibition Era Medicinal Whiskey Whiskey History featured in Old Liquors Magazine

who writes for Old Liquors Magazine was kind enough to reach out for a short interview and include me in this very informative article he wrote named The Last Call – Tasting History with Pre-Prohibition Bourbon. Give it a read as I’m sure you will not be disappointed.

Prohibition Era Medicinal Whiskey Whiskey History

Prohibition Medicinal Whiskey Brands Don’t Matter — Distillers Do!

The biggest thing I have learned from collecting prohibition medicinal whiskeys is that the brand doesn’t matter the vast majority of the time. For example, I have a 1/2 pint Old Fitz and a 1/2 pint Waterfill and Frazier. Both were distilled by Mary M. Dowling (one of the most fascinating female distillers of all time. Read this: The juice in both is the same but the brands are completely different. The Waterfill and Frazier is correct in that the distiller matches the brand, which is very rare when it comes to prescription regulated booze. The Old Fitzgerald, not so much! Notice how the Old Fitzgerald is 15 years old and the Waterfill and Frazier is 16 “Summers” old. Marketing at its best, wouldn’t you say?  In a nutshell, with prohibition era medicinal whiskeys, the most important thing to pay attention to is the tax stamp and NOT the main label. Cheers!

Miniature Whiskey Bottles Prohibition Era Medicinal Whiskey Repeal Era Whiskey

Old Sunny Brook Bourbon Whiskey

Old Sunny Brook Bourbon Whiskey

In this post I want to share one of my favorite brands: Old Sunny Brook. It isn’t particularly hard to find and doesn’t excite many collectors but I’m a big fan of the evolution of this brand and its mascot, The Inspector.

In the photo above we have four bottles that represent very different eras in whiskey history. The half-pint bottle second from the left is from the pre-prohibition era and was actually distilled by The Sunny Brook Distillery Co. When prohibition hit, the vast majority of distillers went out of business and disappeared — but their whiskey did not. It was rounded up and purchased by a select few companies and stored in consolidation warehouses. One of the largest and most common of those companies was The American Medicinal Spirits Company, which hoarded countless barrels from just as many defunct distillers. The pint on the far left is a great example of an AMS bottle and has probably the best fill level of all the bottles in my prohibition pint collection.

Old Sunny Brook Bourbon Whiskey

The 1/10th pint miniature whiskey bottle is from the early 1940’s and is very common but notable because now the name is Old Sunny Brook Brand and the distiller is National Distillers Products Corporation, which bought AMS in 1929. It is the first to claim it is Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey in the set. The final bottle is from the 1970’s and is the first example to drop the “Old” in the name. The Inspector gets a make over on this bottle and looks much younger than its paternal looking predecessors. This bottle is once again distilled by The Old Sunny Brook Distillery Co., run by National Distillers until the brand was discontinued in 1975. For more in depth history of Old Sunny Brook, visit this fantastic article at Those Pre-Pro Whiskey Men.

Old Sunny Brook Inspector

Prohibition Era Medicinal Whiskey

Golden Premium Whiskey – 16 Years Old

Golden Premium Whiskey
Golden Premium Whiskey – 16 years old – 1914 – 1930

It has been yet another long while since I’ve posted to this blog so I thought I would focus on some of the more obscure bottles in my collection. Today I want to share a beautiful example of vintage label design. Not only does the color pop with rarely seen yellows and blues but you also get to feast your eyes on what must have been the equivalent of 1920’s soft porn. Va-va VOOM!

Golden Premium Whiskey
Hey baby, want some fruit?

For those of you who have followed my blog for a while you know that most of the brand names found on prohibition era medicinal whiskey bottles don’t really mean much. With that in mind, let’s look at what does matter: who distilled the whiskey and who bottled it.

Golden Premium Back Label
“American Medicinal Spirits Company, you’re our only Hope.”

The whiskey in this example was bottled by The New Hope Distilling Company. This is the only bottle I know of from this distillery so if you know of anything else that came from Distillery No. 146 in the 5th District of the Great State of Kentucky, please let me know. As far as bottling goes, SURPRISE, the American Medicinal Spirits Company found the barrel from which this nectar hails and put it in their Borg-like bonded warehouse, upon which all the other barrels greeted it with the chant, “One of us, one of us, one of us.”

Below are some tasty close-ups of the tax stamp that adorns this representation. Cheers, all you rascally rabbits!

Golden Premium Whiskey tax stamp
The New Hope Distillery Co.
Golden Premium Whiskey tax stamp
Sho’ nuff. 16 years old.

Whiskey Decanters

Whiskey Decanters

Whiskey Decanters

Hello Whiskey Benders! I have decided to widen the scope of my blog and basically include anything about whiskey that tickles my fancy. Today’s post is about, you guessed it, whiskey decanters. I remember when I was a kid and my Dad had a nice collection of decanters on the bar at the house I grew up in. Some people use decanters to put bottom shelf booze in so guests aren’t all judgy about what the host is serving.

Pre-prohibition Whiskey Repeal Era Whiskey Whiskey History

Old Fitzgerald Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Old Fitzgerald
Old Fitzgerald Collection – Click for full size.

Today’s post is a salute to distiller Stitzel-Weller and the brand Old Fitzgerald. These bottles, all unopened, range from the prohibition era up to the mid sixties or maybe a little later. I’m more in the mood of posting photographs rather than storytelling at the moment, so for an exhaustive and fun historical read, please visit The Coopered Tot’s Old Fitzgerald post. I find myself continually visiting this article for the detailed dates and tasting notes. Cheers!

Prohibition Era Medicinal Whiskey Repeal Era Whiskey

Dusty Whiskeys – 2014 Year in Review

Hello fellow Whisky Benders! This time I’m going to let the pictures do the talking as I share photos sent in for appraisal or general information during 2014. Some are good, some bad, and some ugly. All of them interesting. Scroll down to see last year’s crop. Thanks to everybody who sent photos to me last year! Please keep them coming so we can learn more about these old dusty whiskeys and share with other enthusiasts.

Here’s to a great 2015. Cheers!


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Pre-prohibition Whiskey

Golden Wedding – Barreled in 1898

A fellow whiskey enthusiast and a reader of this blog (aka a “WhiskeyBender”) sent the following amazing specimen of a pre-prohibition bottle of Golden Wedding Whiskey. For those of you who remember my Dad’s Golden Wedding post, this is quite the polar opposite of those examples. Distilled by Jos. S. Finch & Co. of Pittsburgh, PA, this beauty has held up well over the years and looks like it would be Mmmm mmm good. You don’t see old stuff out of Pennsylvania that isn’t Rye very often. This bottle comes to us from Slovenia. How it got there, I have no idea. The owner plans to open it upon the receipt of “first great news.” I would say getting up in the morning would work for me! Send samples, please.


Here is the reverse. Cheers!


Prohibition Era Medicinal Whiskey Whiskey History

Old Rip Van Winkle – Pappy would be proud…

Old Rip Van Winkle Whiskey

Here is one of my favorite bottles in my collection. I’ve seen two others out there that are sealed and unopened and one is a permanent guest at the Getz Whiskey Museum in Bardstown, Kentucky. Scroll to the bottom of this blog post from the Alcohol Professor to see one of them (among some other great bottles).

Obviously, the Old Rip Van Winkle brand has been around a long time. In fact, according to the ORVW website:

The Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery has a four generation history. The Van Winkle family’s involvement in the bourbon industry began in the late 1800s with Julian P. “Pappy” Van Winkle, Sr. He was a traveling salesman for the W.L. Weller and Sons wholesale house in Louisville, traveling around the state by horse and buggy. Pappy and a friend, Alex Farnsley, eventually bought the wholesale house and also purchased the A. Ph. Stitzel Distillery, which made bourbon for Weller. They merged the two companies and became the Stitzel-Weller Distillery. Their prominent brands were W.L. Weller, Old Fitzgerald, Rebel Yell, and Cabin Still.

Now, with this setup, where does this bottle come into play? Did Pappy make the whiskey inside? Upon closer inspection, the answer is an interesting “no”. More on that in a minute. You see, back in the days of prohibition, whiskey was consolidated into government warehouses around the country by the millions of barrels. What actual whiskey went into a particular bottling wasn’t very important. Slap a brand name label on there and you’re good-to-go as evidenced by my Black Gold collection. Most of the prohibition hooch sat way beyond the number of years it was supposed to. That is why you see a lot of 16, 17, and 18 year old prohibition era medicinal whiskies. This was not necessarily a good thing as over aging can make whiskey taste like licking a barrel stave, as I’ve heard Chuck Cowdry put it. Let’s take a closer look.

First, the label and bottle are perhaps the most beautiful you will ever see on a prohibition pint. Great art, great color, and great embossing. The embossing starts with Old Rip Van Winkle’s hat adorned head on the back while his long whiskers flow from his face all the way across the front of the bottle. I’ve tried to get a good photo of it but it didn’t come out as good as it looks in person.

Pappy Van Winkle

Unfortunately, with this bottle, the tax stamp has faded to the point where the barreling and bottling dates are illegible. Based on other bottles I have from the same era, this whiskey was most likely barreled in 1916 (see Getz example at link above) and bottled somewhere between 1931 and 1933. I’m afraid we’ll never know how long this particular bottle of whiskey was “asleep” in the wood.

Now, let’s take a look at where this whiskey was distilled and bottled…

Old Rip Van Winkle detail

As you can see, there is no mention of Pappy Van Winkle, W.L. Weller, or Stitzel-Weller anywhere on this label. The liquid wood in this ornate piece was distilled by H. S. Barton of Kentucky. If you’ve ever been to a liquor store, you’ve heard of Barton. Today, Barton Brands distills a whole lot of spirits and, in the whiskey world, is known for its 1792 Ridgemont Reserve, which is quite good. An interesting note is this whiskey made the journey from its birthplace of Kentucky to its resting place of U. S. General Bonded Warehouse No. 3 somewhere in Missouri. Talk about government regulation! One question I have is who actually owned the whiskey in this warehouse? If you know, please comment below.

While researching for this post, I found a fascinating legal document circa 1921 against several “revenuers” who, much like the legend of Old Fitzgerald, got a little greedy for which they were, eh hem, “desirous of removing to his dwelling for use and disposition of the spirits.” Maybe one of these knuckleheads worked at U. S. General Bonded Warehouse No. 3.

Time to watch the season premiere of Boardwalk Empire! Cheers.