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Antiquing and Bottle Dating: Four Roses and Related

Posted on by Eric Burke

Due to a recent sickness I’ve been talking about buying old bottles and how I go about figuring out a little about what I’ve just bought. How old it is, what’s the story of the company, etc. I couldn’t end this little series without a look at the bottles I picked up from one of my favorite brands of whiskey: Four Roses.

Once again I’m presenting a little bit of how I got to where I gave up with each bottle and this time I show that the results you come up with aren’t always as firm as you’d like them to be.

Paul Jones Whiskey Bottle

Picked up for $8 at a bottle and advertising show.

If you are a Four Roses fan, you’ve probably heard the name Paul Jones. He is the man who they credit with starting the brand. Less well publicized is that Four Roses was just one of Paul Jones’ brands. One of which was just named: Paul Jones Whiskey.

I found this bottle at a Bottle and Advertising show here in the Twin Cities. It was being sold by the man who dug it up, I believe locally. Being a Four Roses fanboy, I noticed it right away in the mess of bottles he had on his table. Unlike most of the tables, he hadn’t really spent a lot of time polishing the years of age off his bottles. They looked like they were dug up and washed, still containing all the scuff marks that time and elements had put on them.

Once I got home, it was time to see what I had. I opened my usual bottle dating site and found that to my surprise, it was no help. Bottle dating as is done on that site depends on a lot of small features: mold seams, embossing, makers marks, etc. The problem was this bottle had no marks, no seams, no embossing. The only thing it had was a glass seal containing the name of the whiskey and the words Louisville, KY. This seal had been applied to the shoulder of the bottle after the bottle was formed. Other than that, nothing. It’s a very well made, cylindrical and symmetrical bottle of uniform thickness that was somehow made without seams, or the seams had been polished off either during production or after. In either case, it was of no help to me.

So knowing that this whiskey was from one of the most well known historical whiskey men, I turned to my next favorite site for help in dating bottles: Google. And there I found a lot of interesting information. Those Pre-Pro Whiskey Men has a great write-up of the man Paul Jones and his business interests. Pre-pro.com has another that contains similar, though slightly different information. But the biggest bit of information came on an image search. There I found tons of examples of this or very similar bottles for sale. All of them said they were from the 1880s or 1890s. How did they get that info? No idea. But it is all I have to go on so I’ll have to tentatively go with that. If I ever see the bottle seller again, I’ll need to see if he has any further info.

Four Roses Embossed Bottle

Picked up for $10 at a bottle and advertising show.

Speaking of Four Roses, the other bottle I picked up at the same seller was a bottle from Four Roses itself. The amber bottle is embossed on the front with four roses on vines and space for labels. In the upper space is the battered remnants of a label. On the label are the words: “Four Roses, Spiritus Frumenti, 100 Proof, An Alcoholic Stimulant Made From The Fermented Mash of Grain.” Along the tattered edges of the label are a few leaves.

I have an inkling that this bottle was a medicinal whiskey bottle as it looks a lot like others I have found online. Right down to the threads for the screw on “shot glass cup” that others in much better shape still have. So let’s see if I can glean any info from the bottle itself.

The “FEDERAL LAW FORBIDS SALE OR REUSE OF THIS BOTTLE” statement is not on the bottle so the bottle is either pre repeal or post 1964. Other than that, the bottle dating site isn’t of much help. There is a scar on the bottom of the bottle, the statement: TM REG U.S. PAT OFF, PAT PENDING,” what looks to be a 7 and what looks to be a Diamond makers mark. Unfortunately, the scar runs right through the diamond obscuring if it has an I inside if there was, it is an Illinois Glass logo if it is empty it would be the Diamond Glass company. Either could be in use during Prohibition. So no help. 

Once again Google image search is my answer on this one and this particular Pinterest pin by friend of the blog Coopered Tot makes me think I was correct all along. The label is the same (though in better shape), the metal cover matches where the screw threads are on mine. I’m calling it. Prohibition-era medicinal whiskey pint.

Four Roses Mini

Picked up for $10-$20 at an antique mall in Southern Minnesota.

This little miniature bottle of Four Roses was purchased about a year or so ago so I’m not quite sure on the price, but I’m thinking it was in the $10 to $20 range. I picked it up both becasue I am a Four Roses fanboy and because I noticed that there happened to be something in it. Now I’m not quite crazy enough to put something in my mouth that has been sitting in a partially full bottle for half a century or more, but I will smell it. And it smells pretty tasty.

Miniatures can be a bit harder to date as it seems many of the federally mandated features that allow me to date a bottle of whiskey are allowed to be missing. Those features only being mandated on items over 8 ounces.

Starting with the basics. I notice this bottle has both a state and federal tax stamp. This little guy came to southern Minnesota by way of New Mexico. I often wonder about things like this. Why did a mostly empty bottle of whiskey travel from New Mexico to Minnesota? How did it end up on that shelf in the store? These bottles only have about 2 ounces in when full. Why leave two-thirds of an ounce or so behind and why not return later if it was good or at least dump it out if it wasn’t? I picture all sorts of stories when I think of things like this. Maybe one day I’ll write one of them down.

The bottle is amber with a metal cap and a black foil label. The label reads: “Four Roses Bourbon, A Blend of Straight Whiskies. Blended by Frankfort Distillers Incorporated, Louisville KY Baltimore MD.” The back label is intact as well reading: “Four Roses, Reg U.S. Pat Off. 100% Straight Whiskies • 90 proof. Blended by Frankfort Distillers Incorporated, Louisville KY. A Blend of Straight Whiskies. 90 proof. 1/10 Pint. The Straight Whiskies in this Product Are 5 Years or More Old. Contains not less than 51% Straight Bourbon Whiskey.”

The bottom of the bottle is stippled and includes the Owens-Illinois logo. To the left of that is a 6. To the right is a 41 and below it is a 5. If the placement of everything is as usual, the 41 should be the date code. The description of the state tax stamp for that time period matches so I’m pretty confident in that being the date. Meaning that this little guy was made in 1941. Purchased in New Mexico. Partially consumed. Sealed back up and left to sit for almost 75 years. Somewhere along the way it made its way halfway across the country before ending up in rural southern Minnesota where I found it. I know the story is probably mundane, but I wish I had a way of knowing it. Thoughts like these are what keeps me going back to antique stores.


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