I have in my archive, several copies of William C. Biles Cincinnati Price Current booklets. They are interesting little pieces of history, full of historic information on American Whiskey. I thought I would share with my readers some of this information found in the July 10, 1909 booklet.

William C. Biles and his brother, John W. Biles founded a liquor wholesale business in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1878. The William C. Biles & Co. was formed in 1892, when William broke away from his brother and started a rival liquor business. It was the start of a bitter rivalry between the brothers. The original business, owned by John after the break-up, had a subscription fee of $199.00 a year. William had a subscription fee of only $1.00. undercutting his brother by quite a lot.

William C. Biles & Co. printed these booklets every six months. The booklet contains the barrels of whiskey in his inventory, listed alphabetically by distillery, year and season. There are notes at the top of the pages that have additional information for example, that the Bell of Anderson Distillery barrels were destroyed in a fire August 1908.

The prices of the whiskeys are divided into categories. It starts with Bourbon, then Eastern Rye and then Western Rye. For example, Old Crow Bourbon, had 10 barrels, Spring 02 at $168 a barrel. Continuing the list states they had 25 barrels, Spring 03 at $170, 25 barrels, Spring 04 at $1571/2, 25 barrels Spring 05 at $1321/2, 20 barrels Spring 06 at $1021/2, 100 barrels Spring 07 at $821/2, and 100 barrels Spring 08 at $75. This shows that Old Crow was a highly respected brand. The average price per barrel of other brands was between $40 and $60 per barrel.

Eastern Rye is whiskey made in Pennsylvania and Maryland. This included brands such as Dillinger, Finch, Guckenheimer, Monticello, Mount Vernon and Old Overholt. The Old Overholt Rye was selling at prices ranging from $57 per barrel for Spring 07 to $75 per barrel for Fall 03. Western Rye was rye whiskey made in Kentucky and included such brands as Bluegrass Rye, Hermitage Rye, Old Lewis Hunter Rye, and Old Maysville Club Rye. The price of Old Maysville Club Rye was $50 for Spring 03.

Next in the booklet is the chart for Kentucky State, County and City Taxes. The chart gives the taxes on five barrel lots, broken down by the year of production of the whiskey. For example, the taxes due on the Old Crow was $3.10 for Spring 02, $2.56 on Spring 03, $2.07 for Spring 04 and so on. It also included at the end of the listing the cost of insurance for every $100 of warehouse receipts. For the Old Crow, it was $0.50. 

Finally, there is a chart of the cost of Tax-Paying Whiskey. This is the Federal Excise tax based upon 45 proof gallons, with allowance for shrinkage based upon the government charts found in a Gauger’s Manual. Note that the base is 45 gallons as the standard size of the barrel was 48 gallons until the 1940s when the size increased during the Second World War. The fact is, that even after bottling became popular with distillers, they were still selling a lot of their whiskey by the barrel. 

I hope you found this information interesting. I think it is important to look at the past to understand the future of the whiskey industry.

Images from the archives of Michael Veach