Reading Italian tax flags and seals

I often get asked by my whisky friends to figure out when a certain bottle was bottled by reading the tax flag, here is a quick guideline for all of you who need this data.

Tax flags, are, well, tax flags. When an importer or producer wants to put on the market a bottle containing alcohol he has to pay an excise tax,in Italy to prove a certain bottle has absolved its excise duties they glue a paper flag over the seal. It’s not very pretty but we have learned to live with them. In order to tell when a bottle has been produced you can “read” the tax flags:

PINK flag WITH THREE STARS: Begin use 1952 Bottled before or in 1971.
PINK flag WITH TWO STARS and 3/4 litter statement: Bottled after 1971 and before 1976
PINK flag WITH TWO STARS and Litre 0,750 statement: Bottled after 1976 and before 1991
HALF PINK and HALF GREEN flag with 0,700 Litre statement: Bottled after 1991

To determine which is older just follow the alphabet: Serie A -001- sottoserie ….. To Serie Z and then Serie AA and so on. Often though we find discrepancies on this timing table, that is we can find a bottle with for example 3 stars which we know has been bottled for example in 1973. This is easily explained, nowadays it is the Custom’s Office which applies the flags, but many years ago bottlers and producers would just buy large quantities of these paper “stamps” and apply them on their own, this means that for example a certain producer in 1973 still had a quantity of 3 star banderoles and they were of course allowed to use them until exhaustion before having to buy the new kinds. So this system is not 100% spot on but it gives you at least a guideline.

Next time: Metal Seals.


9 pensieri su “Reading Italian tax flags and seals

  1. Hi Diego,

    Apart from the pink bit, there’s also a whole bunch of labels with half pink, half orange bandoleers, right? As far as I know (I got into this a few years ago for our club’s magazine) they switched from all pink to pink/orange somewhere in the mid eighties.

    Do you know more about these?

    Piace a 1 persona

  2. Salve,
    first let me thank you for this very valuable information! Do you know about the tax seals for brandy like cognac or armagnac also? The metal seals seem to be the same but the tax flags are a little different so I assume they also have to be dated differently.

    "Mi piace"

  3. They had different labels for all the different kinds of spirits: even special ones for Agave-based products, haha. The dates of changes are different depending on the spirit. Italian chaos, I guess (no offense!). One sharp transition they all have in common and that’s the da litri 3/4 to litri 0,750 transition of 1976/7. The metal seals are the same to my knowledge.

    Best regards,

    P.S. I’ve spend hours and hours trying to find out all the changeovers for Italian tax strips and you just publish it like it’s nothing. Couldn’t you have published this like a year earlier? 😉

    "Mi piace"

    1. Grazie tanto, Emile! Writing this while sipping a Martell Extra showing “litri 3/4” and “SERIE Q” on the tax flag bottled sometimes between 1965 and 1975. The label is also showing “CONTENUTO IDRATO MINIMO GARANTITO 730 cc.”, “40°” and “LITRI ANIDRI 0,292” if that does mean something in terms of bottling date…

      "Mi piace"


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