Sunday, March 2, 2014

Back Bar

Defined as  a construction of shelves and counter space behind a bar, used for storing bottles, glasses, etc.

Sounds reasonable. And so the bottles stored there would logically be called back bars.

They're out there, and although not common, can be found these days with a little patience and a computer keyboard. God help you though, if you type Back Bar into ebay's search engine. (848 offerings just in collectibles and 100 in antiques). You'll see everything from the actual wooden back bars, to neon signs. And a little of everything in between...

But by clicking on Back bar / collectibles / bottles, the wheat separates from the chaff, and you actually see some stuff that we bottle collectors could get interested in. And of course, the comedic attempts by many of these hucksters trying to convince us that their offering is one of a kind, or something it's not, is always a source of cheap entertainment~

Back bar bottles can be divided into numerous categories. The two main divisions entail how the lettering was formed on the glass; enameled or wheel cut. A myriad of different shapes exist. There are cylinders, squats, bulbous, pinch, and just about everything else imaginable. The two most often encountered colorations are clear and amber; with clear far outnumbering colored glass.

Back bars can also be broken down into generic or advertising. Advertisement back bars often contained both the name of the product, and the name of the wholesaler. Enameled western back bars in this category can be bank breakers! And let's not forget the king of the back bars; the LUG's (label under glass). This category take the phrase "mortgaging the house" to new heights.

We normally encounter the generic back bars in the form of clear cylinders with the words "Whiskey", "Gin", "Port", "Rum" or "Scotch" "etched" (actually cut into the glass with a copper wheel). Often fancy floral borders surround the words. These are the most common, and occasionally we'll see a matching pair or set of three offered.

In terms of desirability, many collectors gravitate toward the white enameled back bars.

Occasionally we'll see multi-colored enamel on a bottle, in addition to just the white. A step up for sure.
I'd hazard to say that we see 100 in clear - white enameled back bars to each one in amber. White enamel on an amber cylinder really "pops", and they are, in my opinion, show stoppers! They too, are occasionally seen in matching sets of two or three.

Once in a while, something gets tossed your way that gives even a seasoned collector like myself reason to sit up and take notice. Recently, a close friend had the opportunity to see and photograph a collection that literally took my breath away. Yep, white enamel on amber. But not just two or three, we are talking a complete set of eleven that once graced the back bar of a western saloon!

The white enamel boldly announces the presence of the obligatory "Gin", "Port", "Brandy", and "Rum", plus "Sherry", "Fernet", "Angelica", "Creme de Menthe", "Maraschino", "Anisette" and "Grappa". What makes this group especially exceptional, besides the combination of white enamel on amber and condition, is the presence of products that we never see or even hear about in the 21st century.
What an amazing group!
Now here's the best part; The owner has expressed an interest in liquidating this collection but wishes to keep it intact. Please feel free to contact me should you have any further questions, or wish to entertain an offer.


Dennis Rogers said...

Another great post Bruce. Something that is not discussed much, but yet most every whiskey collector has a few of these in their collection. And, as you mentioned, some can be very rare and command high prices. I sent you a photo of a back bar that I recently acquired, did you get it? Clear cylinder "Days of 49 Whiskey"!

Kentucky Gem said...

Much obliged for the input. I tried emailing you back via "reply", but the website engine just goes to a no-reply email address. I checked my archived emails and do not have record of the Days of 49 back bar. I'd love to see it, and post a photo of it here.


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