During Prohibition, newpaper reports of feds catching bootleggers were daily entertainment. Izzy Einstein and Moe Smith were famous enforcers in the early 1920s, known for using creative disguises to infiltrate their targets. Legend has it that when they were fired in 1925, it was for being too famous.


Anyhow, get this. On March 7, 1923, the New York Times reported that Izzy and Moe "...raided what is known as the William H. Anderson Garage... seizing what is known as 'cut' whisky..."


Moe said that he found on the second floor 200 cases of Pikesville, Kentucky Rye Whisky, more than 50,000 labels, and a quantity of fake revenue strip stamps.


I suspect that this may be from that very same counterfeiting operation.

I would have no way to prove that, of course. But it's fun to think so, and not terribly improbable.


After all, the 1922 date on the counterfeit stamp makes perfect sense for a bottle being faked in early 1923. And, even though it's reported as "Kentucky" rye, I'd bet that either Moe or the reporter simply got that mixed up. We certainly see the same kind of of errors in whiskey reporting today. (Plus, Pikesville had always come from Maryland, and fakers of the brand would probably have known that).



This was fake whiskey, but real fake whiskey. A special piece of history with its own merits. And I really wanted it. But valuing this bottle was difficult. I mean, honestly, what kind of a market is there for counterfeit whiskey? Besides me?


So, I provided a nice, detailed response for the owner, explaining the bottle's history, significance, and the difficulty of assigning value. I asked if they'd be willing to part with it for a price. They sent a nice thank-you in return, and said they'd consider it.


And I never heard about it again.


Such is the lot of a Whiskey Adventurer.


Hey -- even Indiana Jones never got to keep any of his stuff. I suppose I'm in good company.

On to the next bottle!


- Adam

Thanks for reading.



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First-time posters appear after approval. You'll be sent to a blank comments box, but all is ok. 

1.  Posted by  Adam
Friday, Jun 28, 2013 at 12:01 AM
In writing this, I had to exclude some interesting details to keep the length manageable. For bonus credit, see if you know the answers to the following superfun study questions:

1. Since anyone making their own strip stamps could've printed whatever they wanted on them, what advantage was there to not including any "US Government" or similar labeling?

2. Why did the counterfeiters choose this specific end design for the stamp?

3. What's smart about the choice of glass here?

4. What additional tipoffs are there that this is fake whiskey?

5. What were the Coercive Acts, and what was the colonial response? (Ok that's a joke.)
2.  Posted by  sam k
Friday, Jun 28, 2013 at 07:28 AM
Fabulous story, and yeoman's work on getting the details right. An impressive example of forensic whiskey journalism!

As for your questions, here are my guesses:

1. If the bootleggers didn't claim to be the U.S. government, they couldn't be prosecuted for same.
2. It looks close enough to the average guy since it mimics the "one quart" designation on the opposite end of the stamp from the actual proof designation.
3. The bottle does not contain an embossed date, hence someone with that knowledge of bottle manufacture wouldn't easily detect the fake.
4. Hmmm...no idea, but I wonder why they wouldn't have used a distillation date that wouldn't have tipped anyone off? You sure it couldn't be 1916?
3.  Posted by  Peter
Friday, Jun 28, 2013 at 05:12 PM
Excellent story, that must have been a lot of fun to sleuth out. Thanks for a great read!
4.  Posted by  TW
Tuesday, Aug 20, 2013 at 07:39 PM
Great story / adventure. I myself am searching for a real bottle of Maryland Pikesville Rye, pre or post prohibition. TW
5.  Posted by  Johnny Hirschbuehler
Tuesday, May 26, 2015 at 09:02 PM
Very nice story. I actually have a legitimate bottle of Pikesville Rye Whisky. It was produced in 1913 and bottled in 1920!
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