I'm fortunate and thankful to have my paternal grandpa still sharp as a tack at 97 years old. When he tells me stories about Prohibition, I always imagine him looking then like he does now. Which makes no sense, of course. He was just a kid then. And, true to the times, even as a child he had a job: hauling 5-gallon buckets of neutral spirits into my great grandfather's Brooklyn, NY basement. There, father and son would cut the whiskey 50/50 in a big bathtub and rebottle it for sale.

"Grandpa," I asked him, "I have a Prohibition bottle with what I think is a fake tax stamp. Is that possible? Were people making fake tax stamps back then?"

He just chuckled. "Of course! You could buy them on street corners!" It was like I'd asked him if, during Prohibition, anyone might have been jaywalking.


That meant I was looking at a complete fake! A fake for the black market from close to a century ago.


But there's a little more to the story.


Grandpa asked what brand this was, and I told him. "Pikesville," he mused, "No, I don't think that was ever one of our brands." (Grandpa knows that my ultimate Unicorn is to find a bottle that I can prove is a bootleg from my own family).


"But," he continued, "I vaguely recall seeing it around Brooklyn. Maybe there's more you can find out."


I thanked him and hung up, not knowing where else to go with this. But I Googled around with combinations of "Pikesville Whiskey" and "Brooklyn" and "Counterfeit" -- and suddenly, I was looking at something pretty cool.


Continue to Conclusion



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