Some time ago, my wife made the wonderful suggestion that I try to preserve the labels from each bottle and put them into some sort of scrapbook. What a great idea!
I learned very quickly that whisky labels are particular, feisty, and tenacious. Of course, this comment is made even as a postlude to research. I learned what I thought were the standard techniques for separating the paper from the glass, but because the glues used during the labeling process are different, I wasn’t necessarily successful, often tearing the label in the process to my tearful disappointment.
Most sites (and even the advice I will offer) include the technique of boiling the label, but again, that doesn’t always work very well. The label will eventually come off, but it will be in pieces.
I think that I have discovered a way that works in all circumstances. If you do it, the label will actually fall off of the bottle into the water.
Be sure to wear oven mitts throughout the entire process.
What you need to do is:
- Find a six-quart stainless steel saucepan.
- Fill the empty whisky bottle with water. Fill it to just above the top portion of the label you are trying to preserve. Put the bottle into the empty saucepan. (Do not fill the pan with water yet.)
- Cook the bottle on the stove for about 10-12 minutes on high. Don’t worry if it doesn’t come to a boil. In fact, it probably won’t.
- Remove the bottle from the saucepan and fill the pan with very hot water, being careful not to get any cool water on the bottle nearby. This could make it shatter.
- Put the bottle into the saucepan, only lay it at an angle, that is, so that the bottle’s neck is resting on the edge of the pan. There should be enough water in the saucepan so that when you lay the bottle at an angle, the label you are trying to preserve is submerged.
- Bring the water to a boil and watch carefully. The labels will fall off. If they don’t, it may only take the careful nudge of a pair of tongs.
- When the label does finally come off, turn the burner off so that the boil stops, and then retrieve it right away. The longer some labels sit in the water, the more they fade. (I’ve noticed this with Glenfiddich labels in particular.)
This is the way I have been doing it for quite some time, and I will say that it has been 100% successful. Give it a try!
By the way, if it becomes necessary during the process to use a straight blade (be careful, by the way) and the label gets a bit scrunched, not to worry. Finish getting the label off as best as you can, doing your best not to tear it, and then simply drop it back into the boiling water. It will straighten itself out again. It will only take a few seconds, so be ready with some tongs to remove it from the water and lay it flat.
Also, I preserve the bottles, but after the process of removing the label, there can sometimes be a lot of glue residue. This is easily removed with a little bit of elbow grease, some Goo-Gone, and a dish scrub brush. When you are done, you should be able to polish the bottle into a wonderful trophy. Enjoy!