Jack Daniel began making Old No. 7 sour mash whiskey at a distillery in Lynchburg, Tenn., in 1866. It's the oldest registered distillery in the country. The company has produced many different bottles for its whiskey, and older bottles are highly sought-after by collectors. Knowing a few key identifiers can help you determine how old your Jack Daniel's bottle may be.
Identify the bottle's shape. The earliest Jack Daniel's whiskey was sold in earthenware jugs. In the 1870s, the company began using round glass bottles embossed with the distillery's name. The square-shaped bottles first appeared in 1895.
Note the bottle's size. Most early bottles held 1 quart of whiskey—the 4/5-quart size appeared around 1900. One-gallon glass jugs with wooden carrying handles were also made around 1900.
Examine the top of the bottle. Early bottles were closed with a cork, but around 1900, pewter tops were also used. Double-lip bottles included a porcelain piece attached to the top that was used for pouring once the cork was removed, and these also began to appear at about 1900.
Examine the embossed logo, if any. The earliest bottles were embossed with "Jack Daniel's Old Time Distillery, Lynchburg, Tenn." Early square bottles were embossed with "Old Time Distillery No.7 Jack Daniel Distiller Lynchburg, Tenn." Between 1900 and 1910, W.T & C.D. Gunter manufactured glass bottles for Jack Daniel's, and their company name also appeared on many bottles.
Determine the label's color. Green paper labels were first used about 1904. In 1911, a black label was introduced, and legend states the color was chosen to mourn Daniel's death. Both label colors are still used today, with the black label signifying the higher-quality product.
Look for other identifying features on the label and bottle. Lem Motlow, Daniel's nephew, became the distillery proprietor in 1907, and his name appears on labels or bottles after that date. Because of prohibition laws, the distillery moved several times between 1910 and 1937, and the city of manufacture may also appear on the label or bottle. The whiskey has won seven gold medals since 1904, and the number of medals on the label also offers clues to the bottle's age. Bottles with the metric volume embossed on the bottom were first made in 1975.
Compare your bottle with special ones in an identification guide. Jack Daniel's has issued special bottles since 1904, often to commemorate an event or award. The rarest are amber and cobalt blue glass bottles, made in 1905. The 1912 "Belle of Lincoln Straight Whiskey" is also rare, with only six known unopened bottles still existing.
Unopened bottles are highly prized by collectors and are worth far more than empty ones.
Authentic antique Jack Daniel's bottles can be registered with the company Jackdaniels.com.