You know that big block of text on the back of your whiskey that tells you not to operate machinery or be pregnant while drinking?
If it’s not there then your bottle is likely from before 1989 when the Surgeon General’s warning became mandatory.
The Revenue Society has defined revenue stamps as " ...stamps, whether impressed, adhesive or otherwise, issued by or on behalf of International, National or Local Governments, their Licensees or Agents, and indicate that a tax, duty or fee has been paid or prepaid or that permission has been granted." Their use became widespread in the 19th century, partly inspired by the success of the postage stamp, and partly motivated by the desire to streamline government operations, the presence of a revenue stamp being an indication that the item in question had already paid the necessary fees.
Revenue stamps have become less commonly seen in the 21st century, with the rise of computerization and the ability to use numbers to track payments accurately.
Whether you’re trying to date a bottle of bourbon or determine the relative age of a dusty bottle of Scotch the process for US bottles is pretty much the same; it’s a matter of looking at clues and narrowing down possibilities.
Kind of like playing a game of Clue, except with booze.
S., or for delivery to a vessel or aircraft as supplies to be consumed outside the jurisdiction of the United States. 1950 was a Green rectangle decal stamp with White printing and the state seal in the middle. 1955 was 20‘, Cream colored postage type stamp with orange printing; 1-5/8" x 3/4"; with a 7 digit serial # & secretary of state's name & date stamped on bottom. 1944 decals were 7/8" square, 7-1/2‘ Blue with White printing, two small state outlines on both sides of the state seal, and palm trees on each side of the stamp. "KENTUCKY" was printed on the top curve and "MINIATURE" and "SPIRITS" were printed on the bottom of the stamp.
The words "BUREAU OF AFT" appears on the top left and top right of the seal strip. 1937 tax stamps were 7/8" square 1‘ Orange with Yellow state. 1949 wine mini's had 5/8" x 1" Blue decal stamp with the state in light Purple; the state seal is in the upper right corner; and "STATE of ILLINOIS" across the top with "1/2 PINT SERIES X" printed in a White circle at the bottom. "STATE of INDIANA" is printed in a White box across the top; 6-1/4‘ is in a White circle at bottom left; and an 8 digit serial number is printed in Silver vertically up the stamp.
That doesn’t mean it’s always easy, and figuring out the exact age can be a real hassle, but there are 11 basic clues and resources I use when trying to determine how old a dusty bottle of whiskey is.
Below is a run through of each along with some additional resources at the end.
They are issued by governments, national and local, and by official bodies of various kinds.
They take many forms and may be gummed and ungummed, perforated or imperforate, printed or embossed, and of any size.