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    

Western Whiskey Full Face Phoenix San Francisco Ca Light Amber Rare! Probe ChipBeautiful Teal Blue/green Gi-47 Washington/reverse Plain Qt.flask W/open Pontil!Light Apple/celery Green! Gi-39 Washington/taylor Qt.flask Large Glob On 1 Side!Five Day Auction! Figural Cannon Barrel Bitters Castilian Bitters Apricot OrangeAntique Bourbon Castle Whiskey Bottle F. Chevalier & Co. Late 1800`sWestern Whiskey Sole Agent J H Cutter Glop Top Color Crude!Antique Bottle ~ Western Whiskey 1/5 ~ J.f. Cutter Star/shield ~ Early MoldHennessy Richard Baccarat (only Bottle) Western Coffin Flask Fleckenstein & Mayer Portland, Or. Half Pint"the Hero Of Manila" 19th Century Historical Flask Bust Of Admiral George Dewey Nice Old Western "j. H. Cutter / Old / Bourbon" Whiskey Bottle 5th!Crystal Remy Martin Cognac Louis Xiii Bottle, Decanter, And Box NewSouth Carolina Dispensary Bottle Half Pint Union FlaskU.s. Mail WhiskeyQuart South Carolina Dispensary Bottle Clear Clfc Co Monogram Old Antique Amber Embossed 1900-10's I.trager Co.cincinnati.ohio Whiskey Flask Julius Treitschke Omaha Finch Gold Wedding Whiskey Mini Bottle Jug Label PreproLouis Xiii Remy Martin Grande Champagne Baccarat Crystal Cognac Bottle 750mlPappy Van Winkle 23 Year BottleSouth Carolina Dispensary Bottle Half Pint Jo-jo Flask With TreeGlenn Forest Sour Mash A. Graf Co. Whiskey Stoneware Crock/ Jug St. Louis Mo.Saloon Back Bar Bottle Embossed In Gold Embossed O.f.c. Chicago, IlJack Daniels Old No.7 Maxwell House Decanter BottleLouis Xiii Remy Martin Cognac Box Bottle DecanterSouth Carolina Dispensary Bottle Pint Jo-jo Flask With TreeRare Pre Pro Ben Hur Whiskey J. Grossman's Sons New Orleans, La. LouisianaThree Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year BottlesHayner Whiskey Combination Lock Decanter Bottle, Quart SizeSaloon Back Bar Bottle Embossed In Gold Embossed Grommes & Ullrich Chicago, IlSouth Carolina Dispensary Bottle Half Pint MonogramMonongahela Pure Rye Whiskey Large Distillery Pittsburg "no H" Orig Glass CorkCrystal Head Vodka Skull Bottle 750 Ml (empty)Schnapps Bottle Pair Udolpho Wolfes Lite Olive. Bitters/pontil. Whittled Crude!!Don Julio Tequila 1942 Collectors Edition Bottle In Green Wood Collectors CasePappy Van Winkle 20 Year BottleSouth Carolina Dispensary Bottle Pint Union Flask AmberHijos De Villa Numbered Collector Tequila BottleJ. Aronson. Seattle, Washington. Western Tool Top Whiskey Qt. Bottle Old Antique Clear Glen Lily Whiskey Flask Antique Patent Whiskey Bottle Whitney Glass Works Patent On ShojulderPappy Van Winkle 15 Year Bourbon Bottle EmptySkull Crystal Head Vodka BottleCrystal Head Vodka Skull Bottle - 750 Ml (empty) With Cork.Louis Xiii De Remy Martin Grande Champagne Cognac Decanter In Box *nr*1 Dozen (12) Patron Silver Tequila Empty Bottles Hand Blown Glass Craft 750mlFour Empty Vintage Martell Cognac Bottles -three Green One ClearAntique Bottle ~ Western Whiskey 1/5 ~ Bw Houghin Whiskey~ Natural Sun AmethystUdolpho Wolfes Aromatic Schnapps Bottle, Interesting Base MarkThe Original X.o Cognac Hennessy Xo Empty Glass Bottle & Box 750ml 5thVintage Kentucky Tavern Bourbon BottleCrude Amber White Oak Whiskey Bottle Betterton Distillers Chattanooga TennesseeVintage Jack Daniels Old No 7 Tribute To Tennessee Whisky Bottle Decanter2 Antique Nautical Demijohn Wicker Covered Liquor Picnic Basket Bottles FlasksBlown Figural Liquor Bottle. Bearded "garabaldi".the Italian Patriot. Mint!3 Empty Grey Goose BottlesEuropean Black Ale Bottle (dark Olive Green) Probably British ManufactureBlown Figural Liquor Bottle. Queen Or Important Lady Of The Day.13" X 3 1/2".Vintage I.w.harper Whiskey, Bim, Amber, Odd Shape Bottle,nice Bubbles, Late1800sCasa Noble Anejo Tequila Empty Bottle Dark Purple Glass W/pewter Stopper 750 MlRemy Martin Louis Xiii Grande Champagne Baccarat Crystal Empty Decanter Bottle