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~

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good stuff Bruce memories are so very important didn't realize when we were making them how important they would become
Bill Curtiss

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