Let’s talk about a curious blended malt in my possession — The Buchanan’s Black & White DeLuxe, 1938.
ABOUT THE BOTTLE:
1) The bottle was made by what’s called a “blow and blow” machine. The “blow-and-blow” process is where the parison (the hollow tube of glass) is blown in both the parison mold and blow mold. This was the most common automated production process or cycle used for bottles, particularly those with narrow necks. Almost all bottles made this way have “ghost” seams and lacked a particular valve mark. “Ghost” seams are usually present on the neck, shoulder, and/or body of the bottle if made by a blow-and-blow machine. These are faint, somewhat wandering, hairline seams which if present (usually) are sporadically visible on the sides of machine-made bottles. The ghost seams are caused by the parison mold parts and if visible enough will be attached to the vertical seams in the finish. Bottles and jars made by early to mid-20th century “press-and-blow” machines do not usually have ghost seams, since the parison mold was usually one-piece, but will typically have a valve mark on the base. As previously stated, this bottle doesn’t have a valve mark. Accordingly, this bottle could not have been produced any earlier than 1905 when“blow-to-blow” began, but most likely no earlier than 1910 when it became a standard process for mass production. Finally, the bottle is marked with what looks to be “N8125” and then just below it a “6” or an “8”. Hard to tell. If a glassmaker’s mark wasn’t specifically embossed and all that was present was a number, then it is a mold number and it will be relatively impossible to track down which bottle company made it. However, these numbers also confirm that the bottle was machine-made after 1920.
2) Considering the above information, another tell-tale marker that helps toward confirming the dating of the bottle is the Federal mark which reads “Federal Law Forbids Sale or Reuse of this Bottle.” Following the repeal of the 18th Amendment (Prohibition) in 1933, particular regulations were put into place. The federal mark was required for every bottle produced in the United States between 1935 and 1964. The law requiring this embossing was repealed in 1964 and thus no bottle found thereafter has the mark. This bottle could only have been made between 1935 and 1964.
3) The bottle cap is very important. The bottle is sealed with a Kork-N-Seal cap. The Kork-N-Seal cap was in use from as early as 1911 and continuing until the mid-1960s. However, the popular period for this closure’s use for mass-produced liquor products – and the most likely date range for a bottle with it – was from the mid 1910s to the 1940s. Bottles utilizing this closure are always machine-made. I have included an advertisement from a 1920s magazine (Literary Digest) that describes and illustrates this closure type made by the Williams Company (Decatur, IL).
4) The bottle has a Michigan Liquor Control Tax stamp. The Michigan Liquor Control Commission was formed in 1933 following the repeal of the 18th Amendment. The Commission only used tax stamps from 1934 until 1970. In 1961, the tax stamp style was changed from a white stamp with green print to a white stamp with blue print. This bottle has a pre-1961 green print tax stamp.
ABOUT THE DISTILLER, LIQUOR, DISTRIBUTOR, AND OCCASION:
5) James Buchanan went into business in 1884. Eventually, his whisky was the acceptable standard in the higher class hotels and pubs, and by 1898, he had received the royal warrant from Queen Victoria to be the whisky supplier for the royal household.
6) The content of the bottle is the signature 12-year blend produced by Buchanan’s called “Black and White De Luxe.” The signature bottling for this particular edition would have been a black glass bottle with a white paper label portraying two dogs of opposing colors. This bottle, however, is different. It is made of amber glass and its only labling is what is embossed into the glass and what is found printed on the cap label. The label on the body of the bottle (besides the federal mark) is the extremely pronounced and specially embossed words above the royal emblem (which takes up the entirety of one side, and again, is only allowable if you retain the royal warrant) which reads: “James Buchanan & Co Ltd Distillers”; and below the emblem, the words “By Appointment to the late King George V”.
7) This particular bottle was distributed by Fleischmann Distilling Corporation of New York. Fleischmann’s records offer that the company was appointed in 1938 as the exclusive distributors for Buchanan’s Black and White De Luxe, this being a timely inaugural offering.
8) Lastly, a very important detail. George V, an extremely beloved king, died in 1936. This is a special bottling released into market in his memory. Typically, a special memorial bottling was acceptable within 12 months of a figure’s passing. Research does seem to indicate that after that, it isn’t necessarily uncommon to have memorial bottles released at various anniversary dates. However, all the late-date bottles of Buchanan’s look nothing like this bottle, and there is no evidence that Buchanan’s released additional memorial bottlings in memory of George V. Additionally, the visible markings iterated above exclude it from later time frames anyway. Perhaps of most importance, it would have been expected of Buchanan, a royal supplier, to produce something immediately following the king’s death. Though mass produced in order for plenty of the citizens to acquire it, the release of this bottling would have been a limited in “run-time” and not necessarily according to a specific number of bottles.
Remembering that the scotch within is the 12-year Black and White De Luxe line, the distillation date for the whisky would be 1926, right in the full swing of prohibition in the United States, which–as has been stated–began in 1919.
So, what should I do with it? Drink it? Save it till 2038 and then sell it for $50,000? Sell it now for $2,000?
I say pop the cap, offer a toast to King George V, and then drink it. I’ll let you know what I decide…and if it is any good.
I received an email from someone in Spain who has the same edition, however, her bottle has the British wartime stamp “Britain Delivers the Goods” on its side. This stamp was produced as early as the end of 1938, although I’ve not found any legitimate evidence showing it on liquor bottles before 1939.