Saturday, June 15, 2013

Repro update - a comparison

Repro update.

The first line in the prior post read; " It's not western, but it is a bitters - sort of."
In an effort to allow everyone an opportunity to form their own opinion about the current reproduction issue, I managed to place an order for one each of the cabins and barrels currently on the market. They got here yesterday.
Here's where the rubber meets the road. "It's not western", is an understatement. Although I have no way to prove it, I can safely conjecture, that these particular reproductions are, drum roll please, ................................. (you guessed it) - "Made in China"! The raunchy cardboard boxes with that unique and funky odor and haphazardly placed staples, that both bottles were packed in (most probably at the factory since they were a perfect fit), were the first clue.

 Reproduction Old Sachems barrel / Reproduction Drakes cabin

At first, I felt comfortable in stating that they were easy to spot as fakes because both the Drakes and the Old Sachems have tooled tops. That lasted all of about 2 minutes; until I pulled an original tooled top four log Drakes that I've had for close to thirty years off the shelf. Moving onto individual deviations from the originals...

St. Drakes / 1860 Plantation / X Bitters; The repro / fantasy piece that I purchased is a four log variant. The color is somewhat intriguing and or convincing, and could by some stretch of the imagination be confused with an original, but that's where the attraction stops. As stated, the top is tooled. I've seen a couple of tooled tooled top 4 logs in the years that I've been around the figural bitters block. Still, they are an exception to the rule and nearly all have applied tops, done with varying degrees of skill.
Fake tooled top

Original tooled top
Original applied top

Let's address the problems on the fake, line by line;

1) The embossing is a joke. Not even close. Amateurish at best. Refer to the side by side photos. "1860" is slanted upward from left to right. "Bitters" is slanted in the opposite direction. On the reverse "1862" is offset far to the left. As mentioned, all embossing is poorly rendered and notably weaker than on the original.



2) The bottle was severely under blown, resulting in notably "squashed in" side panels.

3) The bottom log is placed significantly up on the base, compared to the real deal. This in turn, results in a taper of over 1/2" from the base edge to the bottom of the first log.


4) Label; it's a mystery, but it's coming apart at the seams. It appears to be a thin transparent piece of film laid over a piece of white paper. Probably velum. The front label of this one has a tear through the middle of the top label, and the rear label is de-laminating and the top layer is peeling at the edges.

5) Measurements, the fake is 10 7/16" tall - 3 1/16" across at the widest part above the top log, and 2 5/16 across the base in both directions. The base diagonal measurement is 3" corner to corner.

6) Base mark; the X is pretty close to the original, but a large indented "dimple" is present adjacent to the X; possibly something to do with the production techniques employed. The original has diagonal base mold seams present, the fake does not.



Overall Impression - Close, but absolutely no cigar. The color is intriguing and could pass as a variant in a Drakes "rainbow of colors" display, but it's unlike any I recall seeing. The glass has a different "ring" than the original. It has an overly bright tone compared to an original when tapped with a metal object. I suppose a beginning collector could be fooled because it's glass and looks like a Drakes. It doesn't outright scream "fake", but it is still significantly different than the originals.


Old Sachem /  Bitters / and / Wigwam Tonic; The repro / fantasy piece that I purchased has a tooled top; a dead giveaway. The color can best be described as a smoky greenish amber. it's an odd duck.  As stated, the top is tooled. I only have two originals to compare against the fake, but both originals are nearly identical so am using them as a comparison. Feel free to chime in if you have an original that differs significantly from mine.

Fake on left / Original on right

Let's address the other problems on the fake, line by line;

1) The embossing is a joke. Not even close. Amateurish at best. It is chunky and sloppy. Refer to the side by side photos to compare the two. The bottom line of embossing intrudes into the barrel ring beneath it.



2) The top barrel band is bulkier than the originals. The neck is notably wider. The base is wider. These issues contribute to making the fake look "less delicate" than the slimmer original.


3) Measurements, both are 9 5/16" tall. The fake is 2 1/4 across the base, whereas the original is only 2 1/16". The original is 3 7/16" wide at the widest point in the center, the fake is 3 1/2". The fake is 1 7/8" across the top barrel band, whereas the original is 2".

4) Barrel bands; the fakes first band begins at the base. the originals first band begins over 1/4" up from the base. Both have 10 bands beneath and 10 bands above the embossing.

5) Base mark; the original has a straight line base seam across the center, the fake has none.

Overall Impression - Maybe "kinda close", if you use your imagination. The glass has a different "ring" than the original. Not "dead" like modern glass but a notably different sound when tapped with a metal object. Again, the color is intriguing but it's unlike any I recall seeing. And once again, I suppose a beginning collector could be fooled because it's glass and looks like a barrel bitters. It is significantly different than the originals. Unfortunately, unless compared side by side, the differences could be overlooked.

Additional thoughts and comments are encouraged~
A quick PS in response to questions posed; The fake bottles do not have a greasy or slick feel to them. Handled side by side with an original I can detect no tactile difference. Same goes for off odors. None detected once the fakes had a chance to air out after being pulled from the factory packaging.


  1. Thanks for the posting of the pics, My example is better than yours when compared to the one you have pics of , the embossing clears the rings better. BUT you have a real example to compare it too, a lot of people who shop flea-bay do not, in your first pic of the old Sachems that compares it to your real one you state that the fake is on the left, if a person didn't know that, they are really close enough to fool. These are dangerous fakes, and this is only going to get worse, again thanks for posting your examples of these obnoxious fakes.....Andy Volkerts

  2. Thank you for the time and effort you put into this project, and for sharing the photos. I agree with Andy Volkerts (above) that you have the benefit of an original to compare the reproduction against. Most people don't, and to say the fake barrel is 2-1/4" whereas the original is only 2-1/16...I don't think the average collector is going to know that. The other measurements are only 1/8" inch off. 1/8"!! The company reproducing these bottles is dangerous. Dog River GW has blocked me from their facebook page, but the rest of you can blast him on it. Report him. Do SOMEthing. Ferdinand, your reports are SOMEthing, but something MORE needs to be done . . . in my humble opinion. Thank you. Dana Charlton-Zarro

  3. I agree with Dana and Andy ! To the novice/new collector , or seasoned collector not familiar with Drake's I see these repros as dangerous to the hobby.
    The embossing was the first thing that caught my eye, as I posted in an earlier Facebook post.
    I'm very thankful for your article . I was hoping someone
    would get some of these repros in hand to compare with originals. I was wondering just exactly how good they were. I appreciate your time and efforts for the great info for myself and fellow bottle bugs.
    Thanks , Brian R. Shultis

  4. I agree with all of the above comments and would add that to my eye, these would be very difficult to discern as fakes if they were offered for sale as an individual piece...the four log Drake's is really good, and the Sachems is even better...tooled top or not. I know the glass is too "shiny" and new looking, but bottles which have been tumbled look this way. I still believe that Dog River should mark each as a reproduction with a debossed mark somewhere as this would not hurt the Civil War re-enactment gig one bit, but as they are will definitely fool some collectors. I will continue to keep lightly stained bottles in this state to confirm their age, and hope that a California Club House whiskey is not next in line to be faked by this company. I see no redeeming reason that these popular bottles are being faked with this accuracy. There is no legitimate reason except to fool. Dale M.

  5. Bruce, Mi Amigo, Much Respect to Your Knowledge Always, Thanks for Taking the Time to Do the Follow Ups on the Garbage Fake Bottles that are Making an Appearance. Not Good For the Hobby or For Business, Fake is Fake. I Starting Worrying When I 1st Read about these Fakes, I had just Bought a 4 Log off Ebay and have 2 More that I Bought off Ebay in the Last Couple of Years. I had nothing to compare them with other than a 6 Log I had just bought. The 4 Log was Smaller So I was worried a bit. Thanks to the Bottle Collecting Community and Knowledgeable Collectors such as Yourself I feel Much Better about What I Bought, I can See for sure mine are real. Great Article. I agree too, I Don't own a barrel to be able to compare too so I would not Buy One without touching it unless it came from one of a handful of guys I buy off of who are also knowledgeable. Man, this could really get ugly, What Can We Do To Put This Down? Rick

  6. These bottle come from Butler New Jersey, and are I believe imported from China by Dog River Glass co. The person showing up on my pay pal account billing sheet is Nick Sekelas of Historic Clothiers, who I believe make or import civil ear enactor clothing-uniforms. The only thing that will stop this kind of thing is if these people are pressured into having there bottles marked reproduction on the bottoms in embossed wording that would be hard to remove. there is no reason not to do this unless the reason is to DELIBERATLY fool buyers of antique bottles. May the court of public opinion prosecute this practice.........Andy V

  7. Great job! Since originals were likely made in several molds with slight variations, I'm wondering if the fakes might more closely resemble an authentic example that has not not been compared to yet? Also, for either of you that have fakes in hand, how do they feel to the touch? New imported glass sold at local import stores often have a greasy feel or will cause the fingers to feel slightly sweaty when held against the glass for a few seconds. Any slight sour odors coming from the glass or inside the bottle?

  8. Fantastic piece of work Bruce

  9. Thanks for info I emailed the guy who makes them wanted a cobalt drakes, thought it would look nice with my others even fake never got back to me, he could make a lot of money making fantasy pieces but he has to mark them some kind of way.