How to Determine the Age of an Old Whiskey Bottle

Mike Jasinski knows old whiskey: he’s amassed a collection of hundreds of bottles dating from pre-Prohibition to the 1980s and ’90s. When it comes to determining a whiskey’s age, “There’s all kinds of bottle clues that you can use to figure it out,” Jasinski states. By researching distillery names and label designs, you can find more exact dates, but these tips will help you ballpark a bottle.

Read the Strip

Tax strips are the number-one information source for dating old bottles. “If you know the history of the tax strips, you should be able to date 90 percent of the bottles you find,” he says. Carry a smartphone and visit, he advises.

Limited Refills

Until 1964, spirits bottles were embossed with “do not refill.” Jasinski notes that while the manufacturers might have used the bottles a bit past the official cut-off date, “If you see an older bottle, you just look for that stamp, and then you know it’s ’64 or before.”

Check the Fill

Older bottles are often revealed by their fill level, which can diminish over time. A fill level near the base of the neck might suggest typical evaporation. If the fill level sits at or below the shoulders of the bottle, the whiskey inside may be compromised in taste.

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