Rare, Prohibition-Era “Dusty Bottle” Whiskeys now sold at the Frazier
The Frazier Museum is now offering a limited selection of rare, vintage whiskeys in its museum store! Spanning three different brands — with more brands to follow — the first products in stock were all bottled during Prohibition and authorized for medicinal purposes only.
What are “dusty bottles” and why can the Frazier now sell them?
A vintage distilled spirit, sometimes known as a dusty bottle, is a distilled spirit that remains in its original manufacturer’s unopened container(s), that is not owned by a distillery, and that is not otherwise available for purchase from a licensed wholesaler within the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
The market for vintage spirits has boomed in the past decade, with collectors, aficionados, and bar owners clamoring for more rare and unusual products. A prospective buyer can use clues to determine whether or not a product is really vintage: for example, a tax stamp on the bottle or a tax seal over its closure suggests that it predates the Tax Reform Act of 1984, which ended the tax strip; and if the label says “IRS” instead of “ATF,” then it predates 1979. If the bottle’s top is still sealed but the liquid level has dropped a few fingers, that’s to be expected: corks and screw caps are imperfect barriers against evaporation. However, once a whiskey is bottled, it doesn’t age — nor degrade, generally — so its quality should remain unaffected.
In 2017 the Kentucky legislature took a major step toward modernizing the alcohol beverage industry. HB 100, sponsored by Rep. Chad McCoy of Bardstown, allows the private purchase and sale of vintage and rare spirits back on the marketplace. If an individual discovers a rare or well-aged bottle of bourbon from a long-defunct distiller, possibly left over from a prior generation, that bottle — if unopened and still sealed — can now be brought to the retail market.
BRANDS CURRENTLY IN STOCK:
* Dates vary for one of the Old Jim Gore bottles: it was distilled spring 1914 and bottled spring 1927.
** Dates vary for one of the John Poindexter bottles: it was distilled spring 1914 and bottled spring 1926.
Advertisement for Old Jim Gore. LIFE, 25 Oct. 1954, p. 43.
Advertisement for Old Jim Gore. LIFE, 13 Dec. 1954, p. 85.
Sanborn Map Co. Sanborn’s Surveys of the Distilleries and Warehouses of Kentucky and Tennessee, Sheet 57. New York, 1910.
Wallace, W. Stewart. The Encyclopedia of Canada, Vol. II, pp. 214–216. Toronto. University Associates of Canada, 1948.
Zoeller, Chester. Bourbon in Kentucky: a History of Distilleries in Kentucky, pp. 180–181; 203–204. Butler Books, 2015.