Whiskies arisen from the ground……like the mythical bird
Yes, you guessed it! The Phoenix… and not just one. This was a party, now and 133 yrs ago !! We were having a whiskey dig party , feeling as high as the mythical bird itself could fly, with disbelief as one after another Phoenix Sole Agent fifth rapidly arose in succession from the hole. We were the privileged privy diggers to uncover this long forgotten party, where a case of these rare birds was tossed all at once, down one side of a giant 6x6x 10’ deep privy.
It started out as any ordinary Nov. winter spot, with normal expectations, mainly being, just hoping to find any pre-1890's privy to dig. There were 2 early houses now occupying a single property. We had obtained permission and located and dug a very empty 1880’s pit a week before that yielded only 2 unembossed 1880’s pint beers. With hopes of finding the 70’s or earlier pit for this drinker, or maybe an early pit for the other house, we went back to probe more extensively. After an hour of full penetration probing, we were bummed that no other pits could be located by any of the 3 of us. We started talking about packing up and heading to a different house. As we walked towards the gate to leave, for some odd reason Andrew decided to probe right in front of the gate, an area that we all thought had been previously probed, and obviously an area that we had all walked right over numerous times. It turns out, that this area had been probed, but not thoroughly, since it had quite a bit of bricks and rocks in the first couple of feet. This time, Andrew got the probe to go in farther than anywhere else. I noticed the drop from where I was standing about 20’ away. He asked for the long probe. Towards the end of the long probe, it came to a sudden stop,,,,no, not bottom, but on a solid glass object. I could tell it was on a bottle. He repeated the probing one more time, and the results were the same. I commented that I had a feeling this hole was going to be a “bottle hole” and very different from the dud we dug there the week before. No one really got their hopes up though, as we all know that the majority of privies yield junk or broken stuff.
Ned commenced immediately opening up the cap, seemingly eager with his new military boots. I assisted from the top until he got to the point where only one person could dig inside the hole. Ned powered thru the rubble with ease, enjoying the power and comfort of switching from Tennis shoes to boots. I jumped in and dug it down another couple of feet to just above where the probe hits were. Time for a fresh digger to get in and start pulling bottles ! Andrew jumped in and took one side down to touch the layer. In a matter of minutes he had his first hit. As he uncovered it, Ned and I could see it from the top of the hole, before Andrew yelled out “it’s a fifth !! “. Next thing he’s saying it’s a green Phoenix !! We couldn’t believe it ! Normally, we dig Cutters or unembossed fifths. He handed the bottle up and I “classified” it immediately. Before I could finish that menial but important task, he yelled up that he had 3 more whiskies showing ! Within minutes, they rose from the ashes of the outhouse, like mythical birds….. 2 more Phoenix Sole Agent fifths and a Cutter OK. We took a moment to reflect and look at each other in disbelief. Andrew then asked me what the standing Phoenix fifth record was, since he was aware of my famous Phoenix fifth dig back in 1982, and as if he intended for us to break that record with this party. I told him I believed my dig of 6 intact (5 mint and 1 damaged) from that dig was the record. Andrew then commenced to more digging and carefully scraping in the layer with an improvised digging stick that Ned found laying nearby and gave him to protect any fifth from a metal tool mark. He continued on the same side of the privy where the whiskies were coming out. After clearing a little more soil and finding shards of 3 more Phoenix’s, he looked up and told us he had 2 more whole fifths showing. Ned and I looked at each other in awe,,,, myself wondering if even more Phoenix’s would rise from this layer. Both fifths were indeed Phoenix’s !! We were now at 5 intact Sole Agent globby Phoenix’s !! Incredible !! I was “classifying” as fast as I could, and Ned agreed tp take the full bucket of fifths to the vehicle to further secure them. In the meantime. Andrew pulled 2 more badly damaged Phoenix’s, one with a large neck crack and a chunk out of the mouth, and another with just a stub left of the neck. At this point, we had only dug on one side of the layer and thought that maybe across the entire pit it could be laden with bourbons. Ned then surmised that there had been a party, and a case was dumped all at once down one side of the privy. Andrew continued to dig, and for awhile it looked like our party was over too. Then, just as we thought it was over, he turns his head up and says, I’ve got a fifth showing. Yes, it was another Phoenix,,,, the last one from their party 133 yrs ago, and what turned out to be the last one for our dig party as well.
Ned jumped in the hole to relieve Andrew. After digging for about an hour along 2 of the other sides, only medicines were coming out. There was one wall left to dig, the back wall, which is usually the best side of the privy. I jumped in, and dug about 10 bottles. For a minute, I thought I had a Miller’s flask showing, but it turned out to be a slick. We were so amped at this point, we wouldn’t have been surprised if the flask had been embossed, but alas,,, the ole counting your chickens before they hatch” got the best of us with the flask !
Fast forward to later in the week,,,,, looking at the bottles. The Phoenix Sole Agent glop-top tally was 6 intact, 2 badly damaged, and 4 broken. 12 Phoenix’s were tossed into that privy, and they are all the earlier varient, glop-tops and older style embossing. Ned’s party theory was right. We had found the remnants of exactly one case of Phoenix fifths ! Now, the best part is, that this case was a mixed batch from the glass factory and from Naber. Alfs & Brune’s warehouse. The color breakdown on the intact examples is as follows: 1 light olive-amber with good whittle, 1 honey amber w/ touch of olive; 1 dark chocolate red amber; 2 light rootbeer amber; 1 light orange-amber (flashes). Five out of the six intact examples are near mint to mint,,,,, same as in the 1982 Phoenix dig. Welcome to the Phoenix Zone......
History does seem to repeat, as just a little over 30 yrs ago I had dug the other 6 intact Phoenix’s. Seems like as they say at NASA, "The Phoenix has landed”…..hmm… again, this time 2013 ! Thirty one yrs later, 6 more, only for this party, the color variety was even better !! Both occasions were when we least expected something good to come out…..crappy spots low on the priority list. Goes to show you, that if you just go out and do it for fun, and don’t expect a pot of gold, you might just find that pot of good fifths or any type every once in awhile !!