What can you tell me about this old bottle of whiskey?
March 25, 2013 10:05 AM   Subscribe

I pulled up the old floor in our house and found an old, mostly full, quart bottle of whiskey labeled "William Penn". Our house, located in Indianapolis (US) was built in the 1890s but I don't think the bottle is that old. Here are some pictures 1 2 3 4 5. It was wrapped in a German language newspaper that appeared to be from Indianapolis but is too fragmented to get a date from. What can you tell me about this whiskey?
posted by ChrisHartley to Food & Drink (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
This listing on ebay looks a lot like your label, but only has one color. So, newer than the 1920s as a first bounding.
posted by chiefthe at 10:11 AM on March 25, 2013

I found whiskey bottles in two walls in my house which made me think it was some kind of tradition, but no. Looks like it was just a way for secret drinkers to hide evidence. I found this string on the Boubon Enthusiast website which may be helpful.
posted by readery at 10:37 AM on March 25, 2013

And this gives further context: Consolidated Distilleries was set up in Montreal in 1920 specifically to cater to the US market during prohibition, essentially using bootleggers (and/or the mob) to get it across the border.

So you can assume with some confidence that it's old bootlegged whiskey that was squirrelled away under the floorboards. That's a pretty great story.
posted by holgate at 10:40 AM on March 25, 2013 [5 favorites]

Well, perhaps not "some confidence", since those brands outlasted prohibition. But I'd prefer to think of it as a bootlegged stash.
posted by holgate at 10:44 AM on March 25, 2013

The fact that the second and third photos show labels that say "100 Proof US Standard" and "One Quart US Standard" implies that it's not bootlegged from Canada.

My guess based on the main label is that it's from a period between prohibition and the beginning of Exciting New Modern 60's design. So anywhere from circa 1935 to 1955 ish?

That said I'm not familiar with liquor bottle design specifically -- it's possible that design might be more conservative, and that this could be later than the 50's.
posted by Sara C. at 11:27 AM on March 25, 2013

This is a prohibition-era Canadian whiskey distilled by Corby, and sold as "American Rye." It was sold almost exclusively to bootleggers - here's an ad for it in the 1925 Montreal Gazette.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:38 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think the "US Standard" labels are just meant to reflect the use of US measurements for its intended recipients, rather than the (different) British-imperial measures for proof and fluid capacity that would have been used in Canada; they're not an indication of origin.

(The newspaper complicates things a little, because apparently most of the German-language press in Indianapolis shut down during 1917-18 due to anti-German sentiment.)
posted by holgate at 12:03 PM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

There's a mini bottle on this page with a nearly identical label and bottle style. The collector claims that it's pre-prohibition. The closer view shows the same red printing for "Aged in Wood".
posted by bonobothegreat at 2:30 PM on March 25, 2013

No further information here, but curious...would this stuff still be drinkable? If so, would it taste any good at this point?
posted by Miss T.Horn at 3:30 PM on March 25, 2013

Thank you for the answers so far. I emailed the person who runs the site bonobothegreat linked but he didn't have any more information, except that it was one of his favorite whiskies.

1) Consolidated Distilleries was set up in 1920.
2) It is bottled-in-bond and has a green federal tax stamp, which would put it 1897-1920, 1933-1985 with a gap for prohibition.
3) The bottle doesn't say "Federal Law Prohibits the Resale or Reuse of this Bottle", which might mean it was not made between 1932-1964.
4) It is labeled in imperial units so it is pre-1970s.
5) It was wrapped in a newspaper probably dated pre-1918.

It could be that what looks like the remains of a federal tax stamp is just a look-alike applied by smugglers to assure customers of quailty, which would put this during prohibition.

All this is a bit contradictory, I think I'll have to post to Bourbon Enthusiasts unless anyone else can chip in.
posted by ChrisHartley at 6:34 AM on March 27, 2013

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