Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Makes you want to say "bless you" after someone says it. Sounds more like a sneeze than a brand of whiskey, doesn't it. Actually, Old Potuin is the proper name and it was a Johnny Come Lately to the west coast liquor game.


Josiah Harbinson was a relative later comer to the Sacramento whiskey crowd, tossing his hat in the ring in 1903. Sacramento was already a thriving metropolis in 1903, thanks in part to the fact that the city was the west coast anchor for the transcontinental railroad and also the state capitol. 1903 saw the establishment in Sacramento of both the first automobile dealership and J. Harbisons liquor wholesaling endeavors. He chose 1917 6th St. as the home for his fledgling enterprise and selected B. W. Houchin, Old Buck, and Old Potuin as his flagship brands.

Etched pre-pro shot glasses were ordered for the first two brands. The B. W. Houchin glass has an attractive pattern, with bold lettering surrounded by an intricate wreath pattern.

A highball glass also exists. Both this brand, and Old Buck that follows, were registered to Harbinson in 1906. The Old Buck glass takes shot glass art to a new level with an ornate and detailed picture of, none other than Old Buck.

One glass was lettered with a conventional acid paste etch, another in black enamel and is topped with a glowing gold rim. Man, how I wish that an embossed picture whiskey for this brand would surface! Unfortunately, neither of the preceding brands had an embossed bottle produced; at least that we know of - yet...
Old Potuin - (bless you); no shot glass known, but... a killer embossed whiskey does exist. Blown with a tool top in clear glass that will turn amethyst, the Old Potuin is extremely scarce. The brand was registered to Harbinson in 1905 and was his earliest. I've seen two, and only heard of a few more kicking around since I started collecting back in the sixties.
The bottles have a slight domed kick up with an unusual base mark; 400 over the number 1. They are air vented at the shoulder and the embossing is set into a round slug plate.
Around 1906 Harbinson packed up and moved to new digs over on 2nd St.; 915 2nd to be exact. In 1916 he partnered with his brother and the firm name was changed to Harbinson Brothers. No known shot glasses or bottles exist for this partnership, although odds are, a lot of slick cylinders and flasks found in the neighborhood at one time sported paper labels with their name on it. The brothers remained partners at the 2nd St. address until shutting the doors around 1918, courtesy no doubt due to the looming passage of the Volstead Act and subsequent prohibition.
Footnote: Thanks to Robin P. and his photo rchives for use of the shot glass photos.
Second Footnote: The Old Potuin example pictured in this article has been consigned by a fellow collector and is available for purchase. Feel free to email me for details and pricing.

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