Liquor revenue stamp dating
See the Van Winkle Timeline for examples of Buffalo Trace’s coding scheme.
Browse the photos on this site to see if you can find a matching bottle that’s already been identified.
UPC codes started to be used in the late 70s/early 80s, which can give you a general idea of era.
Also, you can sometimes glean some info from the prefix on UPC codes as to what company bottled/sold the whiskey: 80244 – Buffalo Trace 80432 – Wild Turkey 80660 – Barton Brands 80686 – Jim Beam (newer OGD) 81128 – Brown-Forman 83924 – Heaven Hill 85676 – Medley 86259 – National Distillers (older OGD and OT) 88004 – Buffalo Trace 88076 – Heaven Hill, formerly used by United Distillers and Schenley 88508 – Stitzel Weller (although some Old Fitz bottled by HH has been seen with this UPC also) 89319 – Old Rip Van Winkle 96749 – Heaven Hill Prior to August 1959 the bonded statement read: “This bottle has been filled and stamped under the provisions of sections 50 Internal Revenue Code.” In August of 1959 the statement was changed to: “This bottle has been filled and stamped under the provisions of sections 52 Internal Revenue Code.” Until 1958, the maximum age federal law permitted for bottled in bond bourbon was 8 years, so even if a bottle was 100 proof and met all the other criteria for bonding, it wouldn’t be considered bottled in bond if it was aged longer than 8 years.
Bottled in bond tax strips are green; non bonded tax strips are red and do not show the years.
Blue tax strips were for export out of the US only, but not all exports used blue strips.
– Prior to 1973, green bonded strips denoted the size of the bottle, for example 4/5 qt, on one end of the strip. Below is an example of a 1945-1960 style strip (click to enlarge).
Incidentally, the term “fifth” for a bottle of liquor comes from the fact that the standard size for many years was 1/5 gallon.
There are several clues to assist in identifying the year and distillery of whiskey bottles.
Most bottle manufacturers molded the year into the glass at the bottom of the bottle in 2-digit format.
If your bottle shows these words, it was probably bottled between 19.
However, some producers continued to use bottle molds with the warning for a few years after; bottles that display the warning have been seen up to 1970.
US bottles used the imperial system until 1980 (pint, quart, gallon, 4/5 quart, etc.).