There are as many styles of antique liquor and spirits bottles as there are the types of liquor to go in them. Regardless of their shape and size, though, the most collectible bottles are those produced prior to 1919, the year Prohibition began. Figural, barrel-shape, and engraved bottles are just a few examples of the types of liquor bottles from this era.

In fact, one of the first uses of bottles was for liquor, as well as wine. Early bottles, such as those from the 16th and 17th centuries, were made exclusively for storage, not to drink out of. The one-gallon or larger demijohn bottles are good examples of this.

Many liquor and spirits bottle collectors tend to focus on a specific type of liquor, bottle shape, or brand. Brandy, vodka, rum, and schnapps all tended to have relatively uniform bottle shapes, while whiskey and gin came in a wide array of bottles, making them somewhat more collectible than the other liquors because there are so many more variations to collect. In some cases, such as the Jim Beam figural bottles, collecting categories are combined.

Gin was first brewed in the mid-17th century in the Netherlands. Since its invention, gin has been associated with case bottles, which are tall, square-based bottles with short fat necks. In the 18th century, the bases of gin bottles tended to become narrower, though it is extremely difficult to differentiate between eras of gin bottles or their countries of origin by their shapes alone. Early gin bottles almost never had seals and were usually olive or amber colored. More rare are clear gin case bottles.

Whiskey bottles have even more differentiation than gin bottles. Though whiskey’s roots are in Scotland (hence, scotch), it is difficult to come by early scotch bottles, because the drink was not bottled until 1846.

The first bottled scotch was put out by John Dewar as a blend called “White Label.” His first bottles, however, were fashioned from stoneware. Canadian whiskey first appeared in bottles in 1853—prior to the proliferation of bottles, whiskey could often be found in pocket flasks.

Another collectible liquor bottle shape is the cylinder. These squat bottles, like the English “Onion” bottle, date to the 17th century. Roundish in shape, the bottles varied in ...

Other collectible liquor bottle shapes include Benedictine bottles (a French liqueur introduced in the 1870s), which have long necks and trapezoidal-like bases. Handled liquor bottles, as the name suggests, have handles, but the shapes the handles attach to can vary widely.

For collectors, liquor bottles are relatively easy to identify. Prohibition came about just as machine-made bottles were being introduced, so if your bottle is machine made, it is probably from after Prohibition. Conversely, if it is hand-blown it likely predates 1919. Additionally, after Prohibition, the U.S. government instituted a rule that companies must emboss the message, “FEDERAL LAW FORBIDS SALE OR RE-USE OF THIS BOTTLE” on every bottle. That decree lasted until 1964, a fact that can help date bottles.

Liquor bottles can also be dated by the presence of a pontil mark at the base, as well as the type of lip. Some bottles feature a batch number or bottle date, while others bear labels with humorous and historic brand logos and mascots.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Pre-pro.com

Pre-pro.com

Pre-Pro.com tells the story of America’s thriving liquor industry in the era before the enactment of Prohibition … [read review or visit site]

Historic Glass Bottle Identification

Historic Glass Bottle Identification

Bill Lindsey's fantastic bottle identification and information site. Loaded with detailed descriptions and diagrams… [read review or visit site]

Antique Bottle Collector's Haven

Antique Bottle Collector's Haven

There's a ton of information here, but as with bottles, you have to dig to find the best stuff. Start with the famo… [read review or visit site]

Bottle Cap Index

Bottle Cap Index

Assembled by Gunther Rademacher with the help of several other contributors, this collection of over half a million… [read review or visit site]

Plopsite.de

Plopsite.de

Norbert Lamping's collection of 600+ ceramic bottle stoppers, Hutter stoppers, swingtops, swivel stoppers, and ligh… [read review or visit site]

Old Spice Collectibles

Old Spice Collectibles

Lather up with Creighton Fricek's complete chronology of collectible Old Spice shaving products. Start with the bot… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Applied Lip,near Mint Perrine's Apple Ginger W/scarce Depot/front St. EmbossingWestern Fifth Whiskey Silkwood Whiskey Laventhal Bros. San Francisco, CalAntique Olive Green Handblown Demijohn Pontil Glass Bottle 19" TallStoneware Jug €Big,bold &gutsy Bottle Lediard's Morning Call Bitters,but Not Embossed W/bittersRed Wing Stoneware Co Marked Whiskey Jug Bail Handle *1920s Ex. Condition!Rare Old Gilt Edge Bourbon Applid Top Whiskey Wichman & Lutgen Sole Agents Sf CaNice Dark Amber C.a, Richards Boston Mass Square#1 Unopened Erte Courvoisier Cognac Liquor Decanter New In Box Rare Crystal #1Empty - Baccarat Crystal Bottle Remy Martin Louis Xiii DecanterRare Western Fifth Whiskey Pacific Club M & K Gottstein Seattle, Wash.Scarce Western Whiskey Bottle- R.r. Dinnigan & Co.Large Crystal Head Vodka Bottle Empty Skull 1.75 L Dan Aykroyd3 Vintage Haig Whiskey Pinch Bottles W/ Heavy Sterling Silver 950 Overlay.....$1Extremely Scarce,crude, Schnapps Square J.h. Henkes Schiedam Schnapps Aromatico E1900s Herbst Frankfort Kentucky Cylinder Saloon Whiskey Judge Distilling BottleLarge 10 7/8 In. Applied Lip Labeled J.h.henkes Gin Bottle Beautiful Green Color#7 Unopened Erte Courvoisier Cognac Liquor Decanter New In Box Rare Crystal #7Pint Texas Amber Flask Chas. C. Rugers Wines & Liquors Houston, Texas Antique Whiskey Bottle Aqua For Pike's Peak Old Rye Pittsburgh Pa Eagle Flask Western Quart Amber Whiskey Hyde Liquor Co 208-210 Pike St. Seattle, U.s.a.Large Crystal Head Vodka Bottle Empty Skull 750 Ml Dan AykroydFancy Western Whiskey- Chevalier's CastleSaloon Back Bar Bottle Overholt In GoldAdvertising Mini-jug St. Croix West Indies *1915 Pre-prohibition Whiskey JugAmber Western Quart Flask Whiskey Rusconi Fisher & Co. San Francisco California#3 Unopened Erte Courvoisier Cognac Liquor Decanter New In Box Rare Crystal #3Remy Martin Louis Xiii Baccarat Crystal Bottle, Stopper, Booklet, Box, Insulator Rare Western Flask The Yellowstone Schulz & Bashey Tacoma, Wash. Hennessy Cognac Miniature Bottle Empty#4 Unopened Erte Courvoisier Cognac Liquor Decanter New In Box Rare Crystal #4Wonderful Civil War Era Officer's 5 3/4" Wicker Covered Whiskey Flask -( Empty )Moutain Corn Whiskey-empire Liquor Co 43 Peachtree St, Atlanta, Ga Empty Bottle Merry Christmas & Happy New Year Empire Liquor Co 43 Peachtree St, Atlanta, GaSaloon Back Bar Bottle Logan Club Rye In Gold Logansport, IndianaHoffman House Cincinnati Ohio Cylinder Saloon Whiskey Distilling Flask Bottle Oh#2 Unopened Erte Courvoisier Cognac Liquor Decanter New In Box Rare Crystal #2#6 Unopened Erte Courvoisier Cognac Liquor Decanter New In Box Rare Crystal #6Crude Hall, Luhrs & Co. Clear Glop Top Sacramento, Cal. Western Whiskey Bottle Murry Hill Club Miniature Glass Whiskey Bottle Labels 1/10 Pint Lexington, KyClear Western Whiskey Quart The Hub Liquor Co 213 First Ave. So. Seattle Kah Tequila Bottles (3 Kah Empty)#5 Unopened Erte Courvoisier Cognac Liquor Decanter New In Box Rare Crystal #5Gem Of Kentucky Miniature Glass Whiskey Bottle Labels 1/10 Pint Louisville, KyPappy Van Winkle Family Reserve Empty Bottle 20 YearLouis Xiii Remy Martin BottleCrystal Head Vodka Skull Bottle 750 Ml (empty)2 Old Antique Case Gin Olive Green Glass Bottles~somin Rynbende & Zonen SchiedamJoe Magnus Whiskey, Back Bar BottleCrystal Head Vodka Empty 750ml Skull BottleAntique 1890's J.a. Gilka Berlin Schulzenstr No.9 Amber Embossed Bitter BottleJack Daniels Silver Select Bottle - EmptyFrederick's Miniature Glass Whiskey Bottle Labels 1/10 Pint Bardstown, Ky1975 Crown Royal 1.75l Seal BottleAntique Bracer Straight Or Mixed Enamel Back Bar Whiskey Bottle Decanter Ca 1890Outstanding (60) Piece Mini Liquor Bottle CollectionCrystal Head Vodka Bottle 750ml (empty) With Skull Shot GlassesMiniature The Jorum Roderick Dhu Highland Whiskey JugLate 1800s Fancy Miniture Wine Bottle Two Very Early Black Glass Whiskey/rum?/ Wine 1790-1820