Also, you can sometimes glean some info from the prefix on UPC codes as to what company bottled/sold the whiskey: 80244 – Buffalo Trace 80432 – Wild Turkey 80660 – Barton Brands 80686 – Jim Beam (newer OGD) 81128 – Brown-Forman 83924 – Heaven Hill 85676 – Medley 86259 – National Distillers (older OGD and OT) 88004 – Buffalo Trace 88076 – Heaven Hill, formerly used by United Distillers and Schenley 88508 – Stitzel Weller (although some Old Fitz bottled by HH has been seen with this UPC also) 89319 – Old Rip Van Winkle 96749 – Heaven Hill Prior to August 1959 the bonded statement read: “This bottle has been filled and stamped under the provisions of sections 50 Internal Revenue Code.” In August of 1959 the statement was changed to: “This bottle has been filled and stamped under the provisions of sections 52 Internal Revenue Code.” Until 1958, the maximum age federal law permitted for bottled in bond bourbon was 8 years, so even if a bottle was 100 proof and met all the other criteria for bonding, it wouldn’t be considered bottled in bond if it was aged longer than 8 years.
A good example is the early Very Old Fitzgerald 12yr, which wasn’t considered bonded and wore a red tax strip, although it was 100 proof and all distilled in the same year.
He also explains the history and methods of early bottle production, and how diggers find bottles.
There are several clues to assist in identifying the year and distillery of whiskey bottles.
Following prohibition, from 1935-1964 the following text was required by the government: “Federal Law Forbids Sale or Reuse of this Bottle.” It’s usually embossed in the glass, but sometimes on the label.
If your bottle shows these words, it was probably bottled between 19.
Generally the earlier date refers to the year the bottle mold was created, and the latter is the year the bottle was made.
Most bourbons and ryes had a tax strip seal over the cap up through 1985.Also of note: the bottled in bond code was only enforceable in USA, so it’s common to see export bottles marked as bonded that are less than 100 proof.US bottles used the imperial system until 1980 (pint, quart, gallon, 4/5 quart, etc.).After that, several brands continued with a “faux” tax strip, which looked similar to a tax strip but wasn’t an official government item.Below is an example of a “faux” strip, though they were brand specific and styles vary (click to enlarge).Below is an example of a bonded tax strip (click to enlarge). – Starting in 1945, the words “Series” and “111” appear below the eagle in the center of red strips.