Ek Bottal’ Sharab ki…
or a bottle of whisky – how many times and in how many languages have we said this, unimaginable right?
But ever wondered about the bottle? Or Considered?
I am sure you know that Glass as a material was discovered centuries back and bottles have been around since the Roman times, 100 B.C. or around then! There was almost no change in the way bottles were made from back then until almost the early 19th century when they switched from hand-blown, mouth-blown bottles craft-type bottle production to machines after a glass-blowing machine was invented by Arnall and Howard Ashley in 1887 in Europe & became widely available after Michael Owens made his machine in 1903.
Through the Byzantine era, medieval times, the Renaissance, it was mostly free blowing, although they had some molds too.
Mouth-blown is probably a more correct term than hand blown, though they’re synonymous. The air from the glass-blower was used to inflate and make the bottle versus a machine, which produced pressurized air. They would just drop the glass on the blowpipe down the hole, and when inflated it would form the squarish or roundish shape of the body. Must be lung-power champs !
Needless to say, one of the first uses of bottles was for liquor, mostly as wine. Early bottles, such as those from the 16th and 17th centuries, were made exclusively for storage, not to drink out of.
The origin of the glass bottle is as a serving vessel, used by the upper classes and by merchants from the mid-18th century. Whisky (and wine) was supplied in a cask or stoneware jar, and was decanted into a clear glass vessel (the decanter), the job being performed by a “bottler”, (hence the title “butler“).
Liquor of all types – bourbon, rye, gin, cognac, scotch, etc. – was bottled in a wide variety of bottle shapes and sizes ranging from small flasks to stuff that held gallons. And like with all bottle type categories to follow, liquor bottle diversity is staggeringly complex in depth and variety.
The first bottled scotch was put out by John Dewar as a blend called “White Label.” His first bottles, however, were fashioned from stoneware because the drink was not bottled until 1846. The first whisky bottles were re-used wine bottles, e.g. Macallan. They took off in the whisky boom of the 1890s when whisky began being sold by the case for export.
Whisky Bottle Shapes
Whisky bottles are principally categorized under 3-4 broad sections, listed below, wherein you’ll notice that categories are shape based primarily with the exception of the first category – figured flasks – which are largely recognized by collectors/archaeologists as a separate category.
The figured flask: Figured flasks is a generic name for the large class of liquor flasks primarily produced between 1815 and 1870. They are also variably referred to as “historical”, “pictorial”, or “decorative” flasks. Not much are being produced anymore- except in some very rare cases of special mention whisky- so keep a look out in antique stores or Ebay if you run into any!
The cylinder style – Not much to disseminate here but these are arguably the most common shapes of whisky bottles- right from Bells to The Glenlivet, most of the whiskies in the market have a cylinder style bottle
The Square or rectangle – another common shape – though there’s a lot of mixing within the shapes. Thought to have originated from the medicinal bottles – or even Gin – which was a Dutch invented medicine, however both the Ballantines & Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey are exponents of these bottle shapes
The Flask Style – most often seen on bottles with a larger holding capacity – like the ones at duty free & quite a collectors item still – I am sure you would have all seen the large 5 litre variants of these bottles
Misc. Styles – the ones who stand out like the conical and iconic Glenfiddich & the Grants Whisky Bottle rarely seen in the whisky styles – however they are out there waiting for you to spot and collect them!
So turn out you collectors and spot them till then, the most famous line about the bottle would still be’ Nasha Sharaab mein hota – to naachti Bottal’