THIS AIN'T MEDICINE
Well, there was no back label. Old labels often do fall off, but they usually leave glue residue. Here, I saw none. Sure, I was dealing with fairly crappy photos, but I've become a bit of an Expert Crappy Photo Analyst. (Photoshop was made to scrutinize pics of dusty whiskey, right?)
I was hoping the bottom might reveal more secrets. But there was nothing but an Owens scar. Hmmm...
I had a closeup of the tax stamp dates, and while the distillation date was too fuzzy, the bottling date checked out: Spring 1922.
That looked odd to me. Compare these:
Fishy, right? I asked for more stamp photos and got these. Take a look.
The stamps say Bottled in Bond... but by whom? Someone has to guarantee the bond. And here, it's not the US government. It's not anyone. Plus, if this was a tax stamp, then it was the stupidest one ever made -- because you can't collect any money without stating who's getting it!
Oh, and now I could sort of see the distillation date, which was either 1918 or 1919. Neither of which made sense, because the production of whiskey from food grains was banned on August 10, 1917 in order to preserve resources for the war effort. (In fact, there would be no more American whiskey made from grain mash until 1929, when the medicinal whiskey suppliers were allowed to begin distilling to replenish supplies).
So, it seemed that I was looking at a counterfeit liquor stamp. It seemed plausible that such things existed, but I needed to verify that. And I knew exactly who would be able to tell me.
Amazingly, I had the phone number of a known Prohibition-era bootlegger.
This was a guy who took real whiskey bought in bulk on the black market, cut it with neutral spirits, rebottled that adulterated booze into twice as many bottles, and sold it to the clueless public for a tidy profit. I was betting that this wiley scoundrel would have some good info for me.