Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Question and Answer~

What's better than a crude, whittled to death Tea Kettle with a big gooey glop top? Answer; a crude whittled to death Tea Kettle with a big gooey glop top and a nearly complete label!

Back in the mid 70's, when everyone and their brother was scrubbing the labels off their whiskies in order to better see the pretty glass, I realized that the mortality rate of 100 year old acid based paper was a lot higher than the glass. Back then, a whiskey was a whiskey and pretty much sold for the same price whether it had the original label or not. I appreciated the artwork, colorful graphics and rarity of the labels and began to make a concerted effort to pick up honest labeled and embossed western whiskies whenever the opportunity presented itself. Roughly forty years and several dozen bottles later my labeled & embossed collection had begun to achieve a level of respectability.

One of my favorites is a clear glop top with full labels distributed by Goldberg Bowen & Lebenbaum / Dealers in Wines & Liquops (it's the rare mis-spelled variant). The product advertised on the label is Early and Often whiskey cocktail. Well now, that pretty well spells it out. Early and Often - I love it!

Many years ago, back around 1970, a couple of Tea Kettles were found beneath a house dating to the 1870's. Both had their original contents and one had a perfect label; the other had a nearly complete label with a little damage to one side. As so often happens to extreme rarities, both were snapped up and disappeared from the radar, never to be seen again. Or so we thought...

A few months ago I received a call from an individual that I was not familiar with. He'd been a collector back in the 60's & 70's, had a number of better glop tops that he'd had boxed away for years, and wondered if I'd like to buy him out. He knew my reputation and was comfortable sending the bottles to me on approval. His price was fair considering the power of the group and I anxiously looked forward to receipt of them. It's not often that I am able to purchase this many potential upgrades at one time and the list was a veritable who's who of high end globbys. Tea Kettle, a full face Phoenix, Pride of Ky., McKenna, lollipop yellow Old Judge, SHM, fire aqua Gold Dust, red Spruance, and a handful of others.

UPS rumbled down our gravel road a few days later and the driver unloaded two large boxes. It was Christmas time in February! And like Christmas, the best present was saved for last. The last piece to make it's appearance was the Tea Kettle. All he'd said was that it was whittled, "the crudest one that he'd seen" and had about a half inch of spillover. What he failed to mention was that it also had the label. And suddenly, one of the two that had disappeared from the radar around 1970, was back up on the screen; and in my collection. A crude whittled to death Tea Kettle with a big gooey glop top and a nearly complete label!


  1. I also like having the original labels. I had the only known Lacour's Sarsapariphere Bitters with front and back labels. Very rare indeed to acquire an example with original label.

  2. K.G.
    Beautiful Teakettle & the label to boot. Did the Teakettle come with a neck label like some of the western fifths you see? T.C. in Bishop has a globby Lilienthal fifth w/ full labels including the neck label. Love those labels!

  3. Nope, no neck label. If memory serves correctly (no small feat after almost 40 years) the other example was also sans a neck label. I didn't detect any adhesive residue on the neck of mine, based on a close inspection with a loop, so doubt if it came with one.

    A lot of advanced collectors look at a labeled bottle with a jaundiced eye if the neck label is missing. However, experience has taught me that as many bottles were produced without a neck label as those with one. I've got a large number of fifths with the original neck foil and body label, but no neck label, lending credence to this observation.

  4. K.G.
    That's interesting. I noticed that a lot of labeled bottles in the Schwartz collection did not have neck labels.If my memory serves me most of the labeled bottles in his collection were a lot later examples.

  5. I once read that when the whiskey fifths were for sale in the stores way back then, that they were displayed on the shelves "label side facing out". The embossing was mainly to prevent unscrupulous companies from pirating the bottles, refilling them with vile imitation products, such as Cincinatti bourbon, for example. Us collectors are actually displaying the backs of the bottles !


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