How to Date Your Vintage Bourbon
This is a small run down to help you determine the approximate year your bourbon was bottled.
- Glass Date
- Government Warning Labels
- Metric vs Imperial
- Printed Date Codes
- Tax Strips
This is generally the fastest way to determine an approximate bottle age. Bottle manufacturers molded in a 2 digit year on the bottom of the bottle to represent the year the bottle was made.
Government Warning Labels:
The federal government began requiring a health warning on all spirits starting in 1989. However this would only be necessary for the US domestic market and does not apply to export bottlings.
Metric vs. Imperial:
US made bottles used the Imperial system (pint, quart, gallon) until 1980. Starting January 1st, 1980 all bottles were required to use the metric system (750ml, 1L etc)
Printed Date Codes:
In 1991 Wild Turkey began using dot matrix codes on their bottles to identify when a particular release was bottled. Many other manufacturers followed suit throughout the 90's and early 00's.
Most bourbons and rye whiskeys had a tax strip seal over the bottle cap up until 1985. Although not an official government item, many brands continued with "faux" tax strips which looked similar to the government issued strips.
Any bottled-in-bond tax strips will have the distillation year and the bottled year printed on it.
UPC Codes generally come in handy when determining between Stitzel Weller, Heaven Hill, and National Distillers. Here's a list of the common UPC codes and their corresponding distilleries.
80244 – Buffalo Trace
80432 – Wild Turkey
80660 – Barton Brands
80686 – Jim Beam (newer OGD)
81128 – Brown-Forman
83924 – Heaven Hill
85676 – Medley
86259 – National Distillers (older OGD and OT)
88004 – Buffalo Trace
88076 – Heaven Hill, formerly used by United Distillers and Schenley
88508 – Stitzel Weller (although some Old Fitz bottled by HH has been seen with this UPC also)
89319 – Old Rip Van Winkle
96749 – Heaven Hill
If you're looking for bottle age help feel free to send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and send us as many clear pictures as you can and we'll be happy to help you out.