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Mar 31, 2010 01:14 PM

How do I date a bottle of spirits?

Got a few old bottles of stuff (Benedictine, Cherry Heering, Tia Maria) from my grandmother's basement that I want to find out what year they are from. They are pre govt warning but can't find anything on the web. Already checked out ebay.cam and cocktaildb.com. I attached a photo if anyone can help....thanks!

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  1. the price tag on the Tia Maria is $7.25, probably bought at a Kappy's in the Boston area, if that helps as a reference...

    1. Maybe ask it out for a cup of coffee and if that goes well, take it to a show.

      2 Replies
        1. re: linguafood

          Har har har...I wondered if I would get this kind of reply...

      1. There are a few things you can use to date spirit bottles in the US.

        No government warning means pre-1989.

        I can't tell from the picture if these bottles have tax stamps on them (those paper strips that go over the top of the bottle). Tax stamps were required on all spirits up to 1985. If there isn't one, its most likely a post-85 bottle (unless the stamp was ripped off). Though some spirits kept using them without any identifying information after '85 (and some still do fore aesthetic reasons).

        If measurement for the bottle is in non-mentric units only (e.g. quart of fifth instead of ml or liter), then it's probably from the 70s or earlier. If it has both metric and standard measurement it's probably from the late '70s to early '80s. If it has only metric, it's probably no older than about 1980.

        Some bottles have two digit numbers on the bottom of the bottle indicating the year the bottle was made. Not all bottles have it and it doesn't always correspond to the year the spirit was bottled, but it can be helpful.

        2 Replies
        1. re: sku

          Thanks for the info...what the picture doesn't show:

          Benedictine is 23/32 quart, 86 proof, no tax stamp but no cap either
          Cherry Heering is 3/4 quart, 49 proof, tax stamp partially still there
          Tia Maria is 700 ml (no non-metric), 31.5%, price is $7.25, no tax stamp, unopened

          all three have cork tops, no screw caps.

          I know some have changed alcohol content, but don't know when.

          How do you know all this stuff? Are you a long time rep or is there some kind of reference book out there for this stuff? I have a couple other bottles out there, but weird cheap stuff (Stock brand strawberry liqueur, 1 litre; Hiram Walker Apricot brandy, 3/4 pint; Arrow brand Heublein coffee brandy, 1 quart), but they don't look as cool...

          thanks again for the info!

          1. re: butterandrum

            I'm not a rep or in the industry at all, just a fan of old whiskeys so I've learned all of this stuff as ways to id dusty bottles I find in the stores. I don't know that all of this information is available on any one site, but if you hunt around, you can find it.

        2. I have an old p.f. Heering bottle that has the tax stamp in non-metric terms. This bottle has never been opened. I'm not sure of its value but its pretty awesome just sitting on my bar. Does anyone know its value?

          4 Replies
          1. re: Plzimm

            First, that bottle is awesome. Contrast it with this old picture from cocktaildb.com:

            If you take a nice photograph of the bottle and put it in the public domain, I'm sure there are websites that would love to publish it ;) !

            I suspect the value would be as a collector's item. Fruit liqueurs go off pretty quickly, and even though cherry heering already has a oxidized flavor, I would think it would not be very good. Old Cassis, for example, is awful. I don't recall who imports Cheery Heering, but they or the factory might be interested in buying an old bottle for their archives.


            1. re: EvergreenDan

              Dan - how could you not recall who imports Cherry Heering?

              Kindred Spirits of North America in Miami.

            2. re: Plzimm

              Hi EvergreenDan. Thanks for the input. I think I will take your advice and contact the importer to see if they are interested. If not, I'll just have it on my bar for a conversation piece.

              1. re: Plzimm

                Very cool bottle. I'm guessing that may be 1940s. Did you ever wind up selling it? I have an old unopened bottle of Heering but I think mine is later, probably from the 60s-70s. (I also have a new bottle, opened, because that stuff is delicious. Not sure how the bottle-aged version would taste.)

            3. I have the same bottle unopened. Likely also bought in the Boston area at Kappy's in the 1970s as well. Wondering if anybody collects this stuff.