Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Barrel Fifth from South of the Border!?!?

Here's a wild one for ya....

I know this blog is called, "Western Glob Top Whiskies," but I thought those of us who like "picture" fifths, Barrel Cutters, or anything else that's unusual or weird, would still get a kick out of this one (even though this bottle hasn't had it's 100 yr. old birthday just quite yet)!

Earlier this year, we unearthed this very unusual Bourbon bottle that must have made it's way across the U.S./Mexico Border just before or perhaps during the era of prohibition in the U.S. (as drinking in Mexico became the "legal out" for any U.S. citizens who wished to keep their habits up to speed).


The bottle is machine made, and likely a pre-prohibition fifth from the middle to late teens. Nobody here in San Diego has ever seen or heard of this fifth before. It's a total oddball!

Upon my initial research, I was able to discover an advertisement (taken from an early post card) that proves this bottle to not only be a Mexican fifth, but a fifth that hails from Tijuana, Mexico!

It makes me start to wonder about the following things:

  • How did this fifth travel across the border way back when?

  • Who was the individual that brought it back to drink here in the good ole USA?

  • Are there other whiskey fifths from Mexico?

  • Was this bottle blown somewhere in Mexico?

  • Does it/should it qualify as a "Western" whiskey? After all, Tijuana is the westernmost city in Mexico!

  • Would there be any fifths that were made earlier (tooled or perhaps even applied)?

  • Does that mean there could also be an early fifth that once held Tequila? Jno. C. Cuervo?


  1. J.F.
    Interesting bottle. Possibly a little late to be made at the PCGW. Any other shards or information surfaced about this bottle?
    In what content was it dug?

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  3. Here's a couple of random thoughts in regards to the machined Mexican cylinder you posted.

    You stated that "The bottle is machine made, and likely a pre-prohibition fifth from the middle to late teens.". I disagree with your dating.

    I was unable to enlarge the copy of the post card photo but at "face value" both individual appear to be very Caucasian. There appears to be no evidence of Mayan or other Mexican facial features common to the border area of the US & Mexico. They may not be the proprietors in which case this point is moot. And then again, on a RPC, odds are that they were.

    The bulk of the West and South West did not go dry until the Volstead Act, followed by the ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment and Prohibition on January 16, 1920. As stated, the cylinder is machine made. However, nearly all domestic embossed cylinders continued to made hand blown in mold (BIM) via semi automated techniques until prohibition was repealed. I see no reason whereby a bottle blown in Mexico during this era would have employed advanced production methods in comparison to domestic glass works.

    I would offer up that a couple of enterprising gringo's headed south of the border after prohibition and set up their own wholesale liquor franchise much as the Canadians did north of the US border.

    Face it, it's a natural. The US was dry. No legal alcohol to be had at the present, and none on the horizon. Then as now, Mexico runs on graft and corruption. Grease the local Alcalde with a few pesos, have the law turn the other way and these guys had it made in the shade...

    Personally, I'd lean toward dating this one to the twenties; probably later than earlier. Just a thought~

  4. That bottle was most likely blown in the USA, as were the sodas they used down there in the 90s and turn. Mexico lagged behind the US in mold-blown embossed bottles...
    I think someone dug another different Mexican fifth in LA yrs ago that was hand-blown, tooled, and appeared to be late 90s-TCish. I saw it, and it definetely looked American made too.
    It's a stretch, but they were blown here and guys are diggin 'em here, so they could fit in with a Western Whiskey collection.
    TJ is not a very old town, TCish, so more likely if there are older fifths from South of the Border, they will be from older towns on the border farther East

  5. Kentucky G,

    You bring up some vailid points. I do hope that you enjoyed my write-up. Most of my points were simply in the form of questions, not claiming to be rooted in the scientific method or empirical truths. I simply wanted to throw this "write-up" on the blog to see what folks would say about the bottle...Perhaps I should have been more careful with my wording. By "initial research," I essentially meant "Google Search Results" ;)

    I didn't say anything about the bottle being blown or made in Mexico...I only claimed that it is a "Mexican Fifth" because it has the word "Mexico" embossed on it. Plus the post card shows its specific relation to the city of Tijuana.

    As for your point about the postcard, I don't see what the ethnicity issue has to do with anything? I didn't say anything about these people being of Mexican or Mayan descent. Once again, the sole purpose of the post card was to simply show that this fifth is not only linked to "Mexico," but more specifically to "Tijuana, Mexico."

    Here are some simple facts:
    -The bottle does say "HECHO EN MEXICO." This is Spanish for: MADE IN MEXICO. Now this may or may not be the truth?? I guess we should take it at face value (literally, right?!?!
    -The postcard links the "Donlevy Bourbon" brand of whiskey to both Mexico and (based on the postcard ad) -- Tijuana.
    -It is machine made. The glass is of rather low quality, clear in color, and stained.
    -The bottle is damage free, but in dug condition, and could use a light tumble-clean.
    -The bottle is what most bottle collectors would commonly refer to as pretty lame. I choose to look at it as a crappy specimen of glass, but a very unique and cool example of History and something that is very interesting at the least. Kind of like the reason why a ACL-Collector collects ACL Bottles for their graphic labels, not because the glass is killer, ancient, or whittled to the max.
    -It is already being hailed as one of the Top Western 5ths. The debate for #1 is currently between: California Clubhouse, Donlevy, and Old Woodburn -- Hahaha, Just Kindding!

    My main question: Why did this 5th end up roughly 20 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico Border in downtown San Diego? We found it mixed-in with a bunch of other post turn-of the century to later-manufactured, trash and bottles. It came out of a brick cistern that was likely built somewhere in the 1880's-90's.

    My proposed answer: The Dick or Jane who bought this bottle of booze, likely went to the effort of hauling it all the across the border into U.S. territory to kick it back. Perhaps this could be attributed to the "dry spell" here in the "prohibited" U.S.

    P.S. You and A.P. are most likely correct, that it is a circa, 1920's fifth, versus from the teens.

  6. JF,
    I'm sure you are right spot on. I would bet that TJ had to be booming and busting at the seams with bars and liquor during U.S .prohibition, and the closest place to the metropolis of San Diego to make a legit buy. I find it awfully coincidental a foreign county using the standard Hotaling fifth ! They knew who was going to drink that stuff, didnt they ! Heck, people are still bringing back booze from TJ !
    Just a guess, but the Hecho en Mexico (made in Mexico) part could've simply been the only legal way a U.S. glass factory could've blown a whiskey bottle during the prohibition time period. The govt did have alot of control of the liqour bottles during that time, and even after prohibtion ended in 1932 required liquor bottles to be embossed with the much hated by bottle colletors "Federal Law Prohibits Resale" phrase up until I think about 1962.
    I hope KY Gem and myself have been of assistance in presenting possible theories re: your interesting Western discovery !

  7. Another solid indicator of that sweet fifth being made during Prohibition would be the clothing worn by the gents in the ad card. Straight from the 1920s.

  8. I'm interested in purchasing your Donlevy Bourbon bottle, if your willing to sell it. I'm in San Diego now.


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