Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Dr. Miller's Ratafia

 Here is a rare western sixth that has been discussed before, however the recent posts on the western sixth's prompted me to revisit this bitters. It is believed that the Dr. Miller's Ratafia was produced for only a year or so in 1878 or 79. This bottle is notorious for having manufacturing "checks" or flashes in the glass. They also are most often found with weak embossing which would indicate either some lung issues with the glass blowers, or a long enough run to wear out the sharp cut embossing in the mold ( I know you do not buy that Rick). In any case, this is a very rare western bitters with maybe 6 or 7 known in near mint to mint condition. I would guess that problem free examples with strong embossing are very few and far between. Also interesting is the range of colors these are found in...this dark chocolate, to olive and light orange to yellow amber, again indicating a fairly long run of production. So where are they? Assuming there are maybe 8-10 examples with damage, that still does not account for very many known examples. This one came from Nevada as several examples have. I would be interested in knowing what other states have produced the Ratafia in digs.I know California, but have any been found in Oregon? Guess Damiana was some sort of sexual stimulant so maybe the guys in Nevada had more issues.
Dale M.

Here's another Dr. Millers that popped out of the woodwork

  in a nice light color!


  1. Super embossed sixth!

    2-3 years ago, the boys and I dug a few broken pieces of one about half way between S.F. and San Jose. It was a darker amber color from what I can recall. Does that sound right, Andrew?

    I believe there was a whole example Ratafia Damiana found in L.A. In 1994.

    Question: Is there any hard proof out there that these are specifically a bitters, and not some mix of a cordial, tonic, or flavored liqueur? Rick??

    A similarly named bottle that also comes in the sixth cylindrical style (slightly modified sides) is the Damiana Bitters /Baja California. They are usually lighter aqua in color, and I've seen one in a light lime green shade. Years back in SoCal, I dug a whole example with the tooled top, an applied Lewis Hess variant with the top knocked off, and pieces of a smashed one in Santa Ana, Cal. near L.A.

  2. Dale;

    My Ratafia was a light bright orange amber. It was damage free, with just a touch of outside haze and interior content stain. I don't recall for certain, but believe it came originally from the Hamilton Nevada area. It was one of a handful of select bottles that I knew that I'd miss the moment I sold it.

    Back in the early 1980's I got heavily into antique Winchester lever action rifles. I couldn't afford both the bitters, whiskies and guns, so the bitters were first on the block. I got that sick feeling (kinda like the feeling that you get when the dreaded "tink of death" echoes off the bottle shelf), the moment the buyer forked over the dough for the bottle.

    I've had a lot of luck tracking down dead ends so a couple of years ago, I started the treasure hunt to locate my Ratafia. It took a month or so, but track it down I did. The buyer, who was getting up in years at the time of purchase had passed away. I located and spoke to "John Jr." , who lived in a neighboring town. His reply; "you mean dads old bottles were worth something"? Yep, out with the recycling when the house was cleaned out~


  3. I have had a few of them . Sold one to Lou it came from Hamilton ,sold one to Ken it was dug in Oakland got one in Washington sold to Ted don't know where it was dug. Yhe one I have was from the area around Yosemite and I got one with a repaired neck from Bill Wilson don't know where it was dug and can't remember where it went maybe Pisano?