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.