Friday, January 17, 2014


The word brings to mind visions of a slimy and very unattractive "shell-less terrestrial gastropod mollusk". We had property in the Santa Cruz mountains when I was a kid and still vividly remember the overabundance of these nasty things that slithered about; seemingly present beneath every slimy step I took.

But slug can also be a good thing,"slug plate". As in western whiskey. The first really good bottle that I ever had was a Standard Old Bourbon slug plate. I recall staring at that thing for hours; marveling at the crude top, the heavy embossing and the character. As my focus became clearer over the years, and I concentrated my interests on rare pictures and the "big dogs", I let the Standard slip away. Not sure what became of it. Nothing in my records, and I don't recall selling or trading it. But just the same it was gone.

I recently purchased a nice grouping of better western fifths. In the bunch was another Standard. This is a slug plate that just doesn't become available very often. In fact, I can count on one hand the number that I've seen over the years.
I've got a few other slug plates on the shelf.
 Kane O'Leary,



N. Grange 

Van Schuyver,
Our Choice,
                                                            and the Tommy T.
All of the above, including the Standard, were blown in S.F.
Another favorite, that once graced my shelves was a Renz's Blackberry Brandy.
With the exception of the Renz, all are surprisingly well made considering their age. The tops are pretty sloppy but, for the most part, they are pretty much void of crudity in the body. On the flip side, the range of color makes up for the lack of character, and keeps them from looking like a line of soldiers standing at attention.
The red whittled "German Connection" Wolters Bros. slug is the eye popper of the lineup; loaded with both color and crudity.

I've heard it said that the slug plates can be broken up into a "true (or indented) slug plate" that is recessed, and a "raised (ridge) slug plate". All the examples that I've got have a raised ridge border. I truthfully don't recall seeing any that have the plate area simply sunken into a dedicated front "half mold". I went so far as to pull out the newer Thomas book and Wilsons Spirits Bottles of the Old West, hoping to catch a glimpse of the elusive "true (or indented) slug plate". All for naught. I wonder if it really exists?
In fact, the only major difference that I've noted is that some have a large blob type air vent on the front and back shoulder. The Our Choice and N. Grange have this style of venting. The others do not.

Slug plates, although scarce compared to many of the more elaborately embossed western glop tops, don't seem to have as much appeal to collectors; primarily because of the lack of embossing coverage. One has to wonder why some liquor wholesalers chose them to begin with. Sadly, the glass house records dating to the slug plate era went up in smoke in 1906. As such, one can only guess that price was the driving factor. Best guess is that it would be quicker, and hence cheaper, to emboss a couple of lines in a removable slug plate than to create an elaborate half mold with full faced embossing.

Something else to consider is that the pretty embossing, which we now consider the front of the bottle, was in reality the rear (or reverse). The label side was actually the front of the bottle.  

With few exceptions, given equal color and crudity, most collectors are drawn to more heavily embossed cylinders. That despite the extreme rarity of many of the slugs. The combined total of the top five slug plates; Palmtag & Bernhardt, Hotaling P.S., R.T. Carroll, Wolf - Janes and Wheeland & Collins number less than 10. Yes, less than Ten Total combined examples known. And yet, given the choice, I'd wager to say that most collectors would choose a Millers Extra, a Chevalier Whiskey Merchant or a Cassin's Golden Plantation (more than 30 known of just these three) over the top five slugs.
Although not quite the Rodney Dangerfield of western whiskies, the slug plates certainly don't bask in the limelight or get the respect that they deserve.


Anonymous said...

Hey Bruce I love these sluggy old things and I got one that is very indented got it from Bob years ago just for that reason he called me about it I miss his calls Bill C.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't the Thomas Taylor P. Vollmers be a 'true" indented panel slug...

Anonymous said...

I've always felt the reason the liquor dealers chose a sq slug (actually a raised embossed line in the form of a square, in most cases) was so they could put whatever brand they were agents for in it, and not have to incur the expense of a separate mold for each brand. I think only a few mention the brand name (Standard, Renz, Hollister Phoenix).

The "true slugs" ( a recessed slugged-in area) that come to mind are: Standard Old Bourbon, Thos Taylor P, Vollmers, Goldtree Bros. By the way, each of these are also much more commonly seen in the embossed square line version.


Anonymous said...

Also the Our Choice Hecken&Schroder applied top I`ve never handled the Goldtree think I will take a look at Ken`s Friday night are you coming to Anderson Tom

Anonymous said...

Good catch on the Our Choice Henken & Shroder ! Another one that comes in a true slug is the Front St Wolters Bros, The Goldtree, rare as it is (5 known in both varients in any condition)..... comes both ways (True-slug & Pseudo-slug) !
Unfortunately, I have to work this Fri


Anonymous said...

Tom you sure are a wealth of information now I gotta find a true slug Wolter`s got the rope edge one and 2 of the 221`s sorry you cant make the show. Bill

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