Saturday, December 22, 2018

The long and the short of it; (or the story of the Crown Cocktails fifth and the mini).

Years ago, Wilson made mention of a product of the Crown Distilleries Co. which has baffled me ever since. It's an amber cylinder embossed simply " Crown Cocktails / Ready to Drink". It was listed as an amber fifth, (no mention of whether it was glopped or tooled) #52-4 and he stated that it was common. 

Well, if it's so common, why have I only seen a scant handful in the ensuing fifty or so years?

Later, Bob Barnett, in his Western Whiskey Bottles series, listed it as coming both with a glop and a tooled top. Bob dated it to ca. 1890 - 1910.

The history of Crown Distilleries has been well documented by Russel Umbraco, a descendent of Ernest Reuben Lilienthal, who owned the company of which Crown Distilleries was spun off from. Russ stated that Lilienthal & Co.'s interests were so large and diverse, that the Crown Distilleries Co. was created in 1895 to handle Lilienthal's liquor interests. He further states that Crown Distilleries liquidated it's assets in 1917, due to the passage of the Volstead Act, and impending national prohibition. 

That narrows down the window for Crown Cocktails considerably. In as much as the bottle is scarce and that bottles were produced with both applied and tooled tops, I date it to the emergence of the CD Co., ca. 1895, as opposed to later. Extensive searches of newspaper archives and brand registrations were fruitless. It was never advertised and Crown Cocktails simply didn't make the cut. Based on the scarcity of the bottle, I'd say the brand flopped and was abandoned the same year it was introduced.

Not mentioned in the Wilson or Barnett books is the presence of a sample (mini). Crown Distilleries marketed railroad sample bottles which were used by the Southern Pacific Railroad; much like today's airline single serving bottles. They were embossed on one side, and had a paper label on the reverse. The brands were named after the passenger trains of the line; including Daylight, Flyer, Seashore Express, Shasta Express and a number of others. Fellow collector Mike Menze obtained a cache of these a number of years ago, which he liquidated at the Morro Bay Show.

A number of different "sample" variants were produced including squats about 4 1/2" tall, larger examples around 5 3/4" tall, and a scarce shorter one with the embossing in a rectangular slug plate. All are tooled; either having a cork or a Riley patent inside thread closure which utilized an ebonite threaded stopper.

A number of years ago, I was contacted by a digger in Burlington Vt. He and a friend had excavated a railroad depot outhouse, and had recovered a clear mini embossed "Crown Cocktails". It had a five point crown embossed on it with jewels on the tip of each crown point. I'd not heard of it before but when he sent me a photo of it, and I compared the photo to the Crown Distilleries label and the embossing on a Crown fifth, it became immediately evident that it was indeed was a Crown Distilleries product, and was a "mini me" version of the amber Crown Cocktails fifth. 


Wow, not only had a "new" western whiskey made its appearance, but it was a mini "picture" as well!


I can just imagine someone boarding a Southern Pacific train in Oakland, making the transcontinental trip to the eastern seaboard, toasting his arrival home with a Crown Cocktail and unceremoniously pitching the empty under the seat as he disembarks the train in Vermont.

Thanks, whoever you were!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Wishing all a very

Merry Christmas 

From our little Elves at the Western Whiskey Gazette

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Best of the West!


Not much gets me excited any more. This upcoming weekend does!

See y'all there.

Monday, November 12, 2018

A sad day indeed. Update!

This is just one photo of the aftermath of the Camp Fire and conflagration, which obliterated the beautiful community of Paradise California.

Fellow collector and friend Clint Powell, and his wife Kathy, lost their home. 

They are amazing people and could really use some help at this difficult time. A Go Fund Me page has been established to lend them a hand.

Anyone can donate. Please consider taking a few moments out of your day, and make a donation to help them through this terrible time. Here's a link to the donation website. To donate, just click on the link below and follow the easy steps.

Every little bit will help.

Thank you one and all.



We've made great strides toward the $5,000~ goal. 

As of this evening, 43 have contributed cash, and we are at $3940~. 

The FB "Western Bottle Collectors" group successfully raised four figures via an online benefit auction as well!
Let's keep the donations coming!

Many Thanks! 

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

What's in your wallet?

What's in your wallet (Err, what's on your shelves)?

A while back I was asked what the "toughest" whiskey in my collection was. 

That's like asking which of your kids is your "favorite". I'd love 'em all (if there was more than just Megan) but, bottles like kids, have their own personalities. And the memories that go along with each one is different. Sure I like the older ones; glop tops have always held a special spot on my shelves. And of course there's the labeled stuff. Then again, the tooled pictures are great! So many bottles, so many choices.

But it got me to looking at the collection in a different light. What exactly makes for that "best bottle". Let's see, there's the lemon yellow hammer whittled OPS glop; got that one from JT back in the seventies. The hammered glop Tea Kettle with the original label, sitting next to its lollipop colored brother; both tough to improve upon. A chocolate amber Tea Kettle (dug in Hamilton Nevada) was my first "really good" bottle. I had that piece pass back and forth through my collection no fewer than five times...

And no collection would be complete without the Kentucky Gem! But that's a whole different story.

Not really a whiskey but, the Chalmers Catawba Wine Bitters is also a strong contender (got that from a good friend - the back story of my example is amazing). The fire aqua Gold Dust sitting next to it is also a "strong" example. 

I move from one cabinet to the next, trying to decide on the impossible, and revisiting the history of my acquisition of each piece. And so, I move, right to left, top to bottom, eight bottles per shelf, five shelves high, in each back lit case with color corrected bulbs. So many choices...

In the case on the far left, on the west side of my office  on the top shelf, two bottles caught my eye. Ahh, Choice Old Cabinet Ky Bourbon / Crane Hastings & Co / Sole Agents / San Francisco. Add the huge embossed crown to the writing, and it would be difficult to squeeze any more embossing onto the face of them. Yep, them. A pair. One is the early glop top dating from the 1870's, the other a virtually identical, yet different, tool top variant dating from the 90's. At least that's what Thomas wrote. And sitting right next to it, is my nominee for one of, if not the, "toughest" bottles in my collection. It's also a product of Crane Hastings & Co. Embossed, Copper Distilled /  Cedar Valley / Ky. Bourbon / Crane Hasting & Co. / Sole Agents / San Francisco on the obverse, with a fancy circular logo of "CH&Co." on the reverse shoulder. It embodies the best qualities of one of the earliest tool tops, and missed having a glop top "by minutes".

Sitting on the shelf beneath, is a MacFarlane & Co. glop top with a neck that leans left (way, and I mean waaay,  left). I've had a bunch of glop and tooled Mac's over the years, but this is by far the best of the best. It was dug by an old pal on Oahu.

And speaking of "slugs".  I'm not a big fan of slug plates but, I've gotta admit that the N. Grange, the lemon yellow Van Schuyver glop and it's Tommy Taylor brethren, also get the juices stirring. The Kane O'leary in old amber is no slouch either.

Same goes for the pair of SHM's; one in "dried apricot", the other in "greenish old amber". Love the embossing pattern on those western blown pieces with the serif R's!

But I digress.

As I scan across my office and displays, I see a multitude of western whiskies that I never, in my youthful expectations, ever hoped to see except on the pages of a wish book, let alone have grace my shelves.

And yet, it doesn't have to be a top ten whiskey for me to appreciate it.

I've also got a common clear Geo Wisseman, with the original foil intact, that I dug adjacent to the trail on the way up to the Olsen Mine in Siskiyou County. It was an early autumn day with old pal Tom. He scored one as well, right next to mine, which initially had set off my metal detector thanks to the lead foil. The hike was a ball buster but worth it. I also found a Warrens Ginger Brandy there that afternoon. Oh, and a broken Old Joe Tracy (only the good die young!). Love 'em all!

A  P. Claudius amber monogram fifth with the correct IT stopper graces my shelf as well. Common, yep. But  it had rolled down the hill from above a steam donkey landing as I grabbed onto a "wire rope" above the site proper, in an attempt to pull myself uphill. No doubt an oiler bottle for the donkey. I was a defensive end in high school, but caught it like I was a wide receiver, as it came tumbling downhill thorough the pine needles.

My cabin site on the North Fork of the Tuolumne River above Sonora Cal. in 1969, when I worked there in the High Sierra's, was loaded with TOC whiskies. Although not worth much in terms of dollars, the stuff I dug up there fifty years ago ranks right up there in my mind with a Clubhouse.

After all, it's not the dollars, but the memories. And I've got a lot of them to remind me of great people, great digs, and great bottles. The dollars take a back seat.

And so I ask; What's in your wallet? Send a comment and a couple of photos, along with what makes them special to you~

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