Thursday, January 10, 2008

Dating the "American Forces" bottle

Update: see this post.

This post relates to the old "Blended For American Forces" bottle owned by Serge Valentin which I mentioned in this post. Here is a bit more nerdy detail on dating the bottle:

Serge says he bought the whisky in an internet auction where it was precisely dated as being from "1945". I believe we can be certain of a date in the range 1945-63. The round red Suntory icon at the bottom left and the slogan "First born in Nippon" at the bottom of that logo suggest a connection with Suntory`s white label or Shirofuda brand, which originally appeared in 1929. The "Rare Old Whisky" name is also suggestive of that brand, which was first released with the subtitle "Rare Old Island Whisky" and later adopted "Rare Old Blended Whisky".

There is very little likelihood of Japanese suppliers of US military whisky prior to the war. 1941-45 is, of course, impossible: simply because the two powers were fighting each other and this is an official bottling (all the logos are right). It may be from before 1963 because the company is called Kotobukiya at the bottom of the label and on the neck. In 1963, Kotobukiya changed its name to Suntory, which had previously been only a brand name.

I have a suspicion that it is not actually immediately post war, although I cannot be certain about this. This is because there is no "Made in Occupied Japan" mark. Between 1945 and 1952, Japan, which was not really considered a proper country but rather an occupied territory, carried that mark on its exported products. I would have thought that would have been particularly the case with products made for the US military but I am not absolutely certain that it was universal, so I can't be categorical about a 1952-63 dating. Perhaps it was made solely for consumption by the US military in Japan and perhaps that meant the mark was not considered necessary.

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