Golden Wedding Full Quart Aged in Wood Bottle in Bond Whiskey 1908-1924

GOLDEN WEDDING FULL QUART AGED IN WOOD BOTTLE IN BOND WHISKEY 1908-1924

SPIRIT: Whiskey

VOLUME: 1 Qt

ABV/PROOF: 50/100

AGE: 16 years

Though it dates back to at least 1869 as a Pennsylvania rye whiskey, Golden Wedding is most interesting as a time capsule from the tumult of the Prohibition era. Up until then it was distilled at the Joseph Finch distillery near Pittsburgh. Golden Wedding Rye was a mainstay of the Gilded Age whiskey world, widely recognized for the gray-haired couple depicted on its label, celebrating their 50th – that is, their golden – anniversary.

Prohibition brought changes. The Finch distillery was among the few to receive a medicinal spirits license, a lifeline that allowed it to continue to sell whiskey – but also made it a fat target for acquisition. It did not take long for the Schenley Corporation, a nascent liquor behemoth rooted in nearby Schenley, Pennsylvania, to swoop in and buy Finch, not for its distilling capacity or prowess but simply its medicinal license. 

Schenley soon shuttered Finch, but, recognizing the value of its name, continued to put it on bottles, even as it moved distillation and bottling elsewhere. One of the ironies of Prohibition is that while the laws imposed severe restrictions on who could legally sell liquor, the regime also created a new type of chaos. Schenley was required to consolidate its whiskey stocks in a few distilleries, and bottle them under rules that paid little heed to style or heritage. 

The result is a bottle like this one. Originally a rye whiskey, during Prohibition Golden Wedding became whatever was on hand. Bourbon, blended whiskey, and, in this case, just plain whiskey, meaning there is no dominant grain involved – though it is, nevertheless, bottled in bond and aged 16 years. The front label namechecks Joseph Finch, though that is likely just marketing. The back label tells us that it was bottled at the Schenley distillery, and that it was produced by Albert B. Blanton, the distillery manager at both the Carlisle distillery, where this was made, and its neighboring facility the George T. Stagg distillery, both in Frankfort, Kentucky. (It is interesting that the bottle names Blanton, but not his distillery.)

Schenley retained Golden Wedding after the end of Prohibition, though it eventually moved its production to Canada and restyled it as a Canadian whiskey. Eventually, things came full circle when the brand fell under the ownership of Sazerac, the current owner of Buffalo Trace. In 2023 Buffalo Trace released an updated, very limited version of Golden Wedding, as part of its series of vintage, resurrected brands.

Release: 1924

Spirit: Bottled in Bond Whiskey

Producer: Schenley

Misc.: This bottle features all sorts of historical nuggets. The husband and wife on pre-Prohibition bottles have been replaced by two men, in accordance with rules that forbid the use of women in liquor marketing. It also states on the back that the whiskey was distilled before Sept. 8, 1917, the day after which the federal government forbid the production of alcohol for drinking – a war was on, and every drop was needed for military production.

Collectors’ tips: Look for historical details like the “pilfer-proof cap” and the embossed legend at the bottom of the bottle: “Has Had No Peers for 50 Years.

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