This time of year, the relentless Oregon winter gloom, accompanied by rain, snow and pogonip (ice fog), turns my thoughts to Hawaii.
I've always had a soft spot for "the islands". My father lived on the big island (Hawaii proper) forever. My daughter and her family resided on Oahu, just outside of Pearl Harbor off and on for several years. I've spent my share of time on these islands, as well as Kauai and Maui. There's just something about the warm sea air, tropical breezes and billowing white clouds that soothes the inner beast.
And of course, there's the history~ Lots and lots of history; much of it intertwined with the pre-prohibition San Francisco wholesale liquor trade. Molokai, Hawaii and Oahu are all well known for the quantity and quality of western tooled and glop top whiskies found there. The towns, cane plantation dumps and mountain ravines have in the past (and continue to) give up treasures. Treasures with names like Spears Pioneer, Cutter, M. Rothenburg (cluck - cluck), Lilienthal, and Spruance Stanley all abound in collections over there. Hilo, Kona, Lahaina, Wailua, Ewa, Kihea, and of course Honolulu, have all produced spectacular S.F. whiskey finds over the years.
And we can't forget to give due credit to the whiskies indigenous to Hawaii proper. A thriving liquor trade existed from the eighties through to prohibition. The oldest, C.L. Richards & Co. - Honolulu S.I. (Sandwich Islands) dates to around 1858, is olive green and should by all rights have a big ol' blowpipe or iron pontil scar on the base. As far as I know, there's only two in existence.
Next in the batting lineup is the slug plate MacFarlane & Co. I've spent countless hours in the archives, located on the Iolani Palace Grounds in downtown Honolulu. There's a wealth of information there, if one is patient and dogged enough to figure out how and where it's stored... MacFarlane (actually G.W. & Co.) dates back to the early eighties. He was first located in the Beaver Block, a two-story structure located at Fort and Queen Streets, which was completed in 1882. Progressive, his building sported the first elevator (albeit manual and not electrified) in the islands, allowing patrons easy access to the second floor, from the Beaver Saloon located on the first. Competition must have been stiff as the front page of the January 1, 1887 (Honolulu) Daily Herald has multiple advertisements for Hackfield, Lilienthal, Spruance Stanley, Martinelli, and of course, MacFarlane. Conjecture has long been tossed about that MacFarlane & Co. actually became part of the Lilienthal corporate umbrella and the slug cylinders bear more than a passing resemblance to the Van Schuyver and Crown Distilleries slug plates. If so, the merger occurred post 1887 as evidenced by this newspaper. The MacFarlane slug plate was made over a wide time span, and as such, the bottles evolved from the crude glop tops of 1882, into the neatly made tool top era, ca. 1910.