Let me introduce myself. My name is David Spaid, former editor of The Miniature Bottle Collector, which is now out-of-print. I’ve been collecting bottles of all sizes for over 50 years and, apparently, I’ve had some impact on my son, Scott. From time-to-time I will be writing for WhiskeyBent.net. Cheers! Now, on to the article.
Perhaps some of the most beautiful bottles ever made were Golden Wedding whiskey in carnival glass. I’ve seen them in full pints before but don’t let that mislead you. The bottles pictured here are 1/10 pint miniatures and probably the best set of variations ever assembled in one place (my collection). Let’s take a closer look.
The Ryes pictured above are major variations in that one is an “Old Rye” and the other is “RYE Whiskey A Blend”. Notice the one on the left does not mention Schenley as the distiller. The one on the right has the distinctive Schenley gold medal neck label, however.
These three bourbons are my favorites of the bunch. Rather than ryes, we have bourbons with similar variations like the first two bottles. The bottle on the far right has to be the most handsome of them all and Schenley’s had no problem putting their name and gold seal on this one.
Finally, we have another set of ryes all with the Schenley’s masthead and gold seals. As far as dating these bottles go, I’m going to leave that to Scott to figure out so I can test his knowledge. Do you own a different variation of a Golden Wedding bottle in any size? Let Scott know so he can catalog it on this blog.
This magazine ad from October 1934 sheds light on the fact that there was a lot of prohibition era whiskey left over after Repeal. Since we basically had to start from scratch aging American whiskey via the relatively few distilleries that survived, the only “good old stuff” was bottled before 1920 (aka pre-prohibition). What is interesting is a lot of the pre-prohibition whiskey was way over-aged and tasted like a burnt leather boot. So, in this clever advertisement by National Distillers, they turn that around and make it sound like an 18 year old bourbon is “mellow” and 13 year old rye is as “smooth as liquid silk.” Granted, some prohibition era whiskey still tastes pretty darn good, but bourbon was never meant to be aged past 6 to 8 years for it to have quality flavor.
In case you don’t want to read the advertisement from the image file, it is transcribed below.
Have you laid in your share of this Genuine Pre-Prohibtion Whiskey?
It’s dwindling fast — and it’s strictly limited, so better act quickly if you want to reserve some of this true vintage liquor for your own cellar
Everyone, at least on special occasions, likes to have a few bottles or cases of extra-rare old American whiskey on hand.
Unfortunately, this will soon be impossible unless you stock up now.
The nation’s entire available supply is limited by the fact that it had to be laid down before prohibition to attain vintage flavor today — and what little remains is rapidly dwindling to the vanishing point as is ours.
When this diminishing supply of rare old whiskey is exhausted, you will never see any more, as the government requires that whiskey be withdrawn at the end of 8 years from barrels and bottles for purposes of revenue.
In fact, our famous 16-year-old Old Taylor is now completely sold out — showing the way of the wind.*
The rest of the venerable stock includes Sunny Brook and Old Grand Dad — each 16 to 18 years old — and several other mellow old bourbons.*
Also one famous rye — Mount Vernon — 12 to 13 years old — and smooth as liquid silk*
These were names to conjure with before the war, and the few cases that remain, heavily drawn against every day, are prizes of very rare order.
And while they are a bit costly for everyday service, you’ll be proud in the days to come, to bring out a bottle or so for specially favored guests. The government stamp attests their rare age; and a neat glass sniffed or sipped will demonstrate their marvelous bouquet and flavor.
*You’ll always be able to call for these famous brand names — and get the finest 4 year or older, bottled in bond whiskies in America. Only the very old, prohibition aged stocks are referred to in this advertisement.
PRODUCTS OF NATIONAL DISTILLERS
AMERICAN MEDICINAL SPIRITS CO. • NEW YORK • CHICAGO • LOUISVILLE • SAN FRANCISCO
Caption 1:The famous brands OLD GRAND DAD, SUNNY BROOK and MOUNT VERNON make up the greater part of this special limited stock, but also there are small quantities remaining of BOURBON de luxe, OLD McBRAYER, BLACK GOLD, BLUE GRASS and OLD RIPY.
Caption 2:Whiskey so rare as this is really “occasion” whiskey — not for the everyday cocktail or highball, but for the unusual occasion.
You know, it really doesn’t dawn on you that people could easily get whiskey during prohibition until you see the medicinal whiskey prescriptions and logs that were used during the time period. Meticulous records were required by the Treasury Department’s U.S. Prohibition Service similar to the FDA today.
Just as some of the bottles of whiskey from this era survived, so did the actual prescriptions. At the Rose Melnick Medical Museum you can view not only the prescription pad doctors used but also the prescription log book. Some of the entries in the book are fantastic examples of the kind of ailments you would have to have in order to procure the water of life. Influenza, acute pharyngitis (aka “sore throat”), bronchitis, and acute coryza (aka “the common cold”) are just a few. I highly recommend you view the original photos at the museum site as they are huge, high resolution gems.
Medicinal Whiskey Prescriptions Gallery
Official prescription tablet for medicinal alcohol, 1933
So, I was slumming around on Craig’s List the other day looking for a swing set, yeah a swing set, and I found this delicious looking bottle of Thompson Select Straight Kentucky Whiskey. In about 5 years this hooch will be at least 100 years old. Heck, they knew prohibition was coming and sent flyers out to market basically saying, “get it while it’s legal.” I called the seller and he thinks he has something very special, which he does. However, based on his asking price, it ain’t THAT special. This must have been “new old stock” at the time because the distillery closed in 1918 but was shipped to a pharmacy in 1930, according to the date and information on the shipping crate. Fortunately, I nabbed the photos before the listing was pulled. Hey, if you’re lucky, these gems might still be for sale. Just put your best Pawn Stars poker face on when you call.
In the meantime, check out this fantastic history on Thompson Select Straight Kentucky Whiskey from our friends at www.pre-pro.com.
During one of my typical Google outings I stumbled upon this photograph of a nice old collection of prohibition whiskey bottles. The owner of this collection is unknown as the photo was snapped and uploaded to Reddit by the owner’s grandson according to the original post. My goal is to identify every brand in the photo and I need your help. If you can correctly identify any of the prohibition whiskey bottles in the photo please post your guesses below. Hint: click on the photo to get a larger version of it. Another hint: the collection seems to be in alphabetical order, more or less.
Have you ever wondered what a bottle of medicinal whiskey distilled nearly 100 years ago tastes like? Yeah, I’m sure you’re thinking what most people think. Ewww! Hasn’t that stuff turned by now? Well, in most cases, the answer is no. If the seal is intact, no sediment at the bottom, and only a bit of evaporation, you may be in for a treat. Unlike wine, when whiskey is bottled after aging for let’s say, 8 years, it remains an 8 year old whiskey for life if it has been stored in a cool dark place.
You don’t have to drink medicinal whiskey because LAW has done it for you
If you’re like me, you wouldn’t dare drink one unless you had a spare or two lying around and that usually isn’t the case. You see, I’m a collector and once the bottles are opened, they have zero value to me. So, rather than open that delicious looking bottle of Old Farm you found behind the walls while renovating, drop me a line so I can talk you out of it.
Our friends at the LA Whiskey Society have done us a favor and tasted some of the oldest and most interesting prohibition era medicinal whiskies you can find. While a few were stinkers, several charmed the palates off of the LAW tasters, which worries me they will pursue drinking more of them. Since I’m not going to open bottles in my collection, I’m happy that the tasters at LAW have done this so we don’t have to. For an incredibly interesting read, see the main article. For tasting notes, see the links below. Dates are distillation and bottling, respectively.