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What! More Armchair Caving for the Alcoholic?

by Ray Mansfield

I was delighted when the Chief Bat gave me a copy of the Belfry Bulletin which included his article on bottle labels and associated ephemera.  There was a catch in this kind-hearted gesture as it was followed by the comment "I expect you can add to this and produce something for the next BB".  Well here goes:-


I can only add one beer label to Tony's list but it is probably the finest cave related beer label I have ever seen.

Pabst Brewing Co.  An early 1900's coloured label showing a group of tourists in Mammoth Cave enjoying a glass of beer.  This was one of a series of 8 topical labels produced by this Milwaukee Brewery, which were also published in booklet form for advertising.


Krugman, Attendorner Hohlentropfchen from Sauerland is not a beer as Tony suggests in his list but a 32% Schnapps advertising the show cave Attendorn Tropfsteinhohle.  This item was on sale at a number of Sauerland show caves in the early 1970's.

Zmajeve solze, Dragon's tears homemade plum brandy (Slivovka).  Once upon a time there lived a frightful dragon in the Postojna Caves.  In fear of the roaring monster, the people of the region used to throw their sheep, goats and even calves into the caves.  The insatiable monster represented an ever-growing danger to the local people.  A clever herdsman called Jacob happened to live nearby.  When the inhabitants of Postojna asked him for help, Jacob hit upon a very good idea.  He told the people to throw the dragon a calf stuffed with quick lime.  They did as they were told.  The greedy monster devoured the bait instantaneously and afterwards drank water.  The lime began boiling and the dragon started roaring, raving and raging with pain. Finally it threw itself on its back, cut at a cave wall with its mighty claws so strongly that its traces can still be seen, - and it was done for.  According to their good old custom, the locals drank to this great event, toasting each other with homemade plum brandy.

This slivovka could certainly be bought at concession stalls outside Postojna Jama in the early 1990' s but I do not know if it is still available.

Bacardi rum.  The bat trademark of Barcardi & Company Ltd is claimed to be the most famous bat in the world.  A 16pp booklet published in 1984 will tell you why.

Dew of the Western Isles, Old Highland Whisky.  An early 1900 bottle label reproduced on a postcard in 1986.  The whisky was produced by Train & McIntyre Ltd of Glasgow and the label shows Fingal's Cave.

Mammoth Cave Brand straight bourbon whiskey.  Tony records the 1940's label from the Stitzel-Weller Distillery but there are others. Probably the earliest is a late 1800' s or very early 1900' s bottle with a multi-coloured enamel picture of the historic entrance to Mammoth Cave with white enamel lettering Mammoth Cave Whiskey.  One of these rare items recently sold for well in excess of $200.00 in a recent auction.  A half pint label dating from 1916 shows a similar picture to that used in the 1940's, but the distillery was then solely owned by W.L.Weller & Sons.  This 1916 bottle is of considerable interest as it has another label which is a caution notice about mis-using the bottle and its contents, and the neck tax stamps have a bottling date of 1916 and a made date of spring 1911.  It claims to be 100 proof.

Jack Daniel's Whiskey. The California Caver of June 1980 carried a copy of an advertisement for this famous bourbon.  It shows three people at the entrance of the cave and carries the following text.  Of the 2,531 caves in Tennessee, this one in Moore County is particularly prized.  It's fed, you see, by an underground, iron-free spring flowing at 56 degrees Fahrenheit year round.  Mr Jack Daniel, a native of these parts, laid claim to the cave in 1866 and from that year forward, its water has been used to make Jack Daniel Whiskey.

A full description of this cave and a survey can be found in:- Thomas Barr - Caves of Tennessee. 1961. pp.334-337.  I visited this distillery on 18th June 1974 with Martin Webster, Martin Mills and Bob Mehew to find that the water from the cave was really used to make the whiskey but we did not get a free sample as the distillery is in a dry county, most disappointing.


Tony suggests that serious students should consult the Belgian published bulletin collections (now defunct).  He is quite right in saying consult it, but it is not defunct.  It stopped at number 40 in December 1994 but Guy de Block must have relented and started again with number 41 in September 1999 and the last issue number 43 came out in May 2000.  Numerous labels (mostly wine) have been described and illustrated and check lists have been produced by Philippe Drouin in the following issues:-

Number 29 pp.12-13 (February 1991).  Number 31 pp.13-16 (December 1991).  Number 40 pp.11-23 (December 1994) and Number 41 pp.3-10 (September 1999).

Quitapenas Malaga.  A sweet wine purchased in the last five years with a label showing some cave formations in the Cueva de Nerja, Spain.

Cueva del Granero 1987. From La Mancha region of Spain does not have any cave illustration, just in the name.

Tautavel.  Cotes du Roussillon Villages 1995.  Label shows three Palaeolithic hunters from the site Caune de l' Arago, Pyrenees-Orientales, an archaeological site renowned for the discovery of Tautavel Man.  Some details on this site and this wine appeared in the Oddbins winelist for Winter 1995.

Grottes des Tunnels Merlot 1992.  From a show cave in the Ardeche visited by Martin Mills and family in 1994, this label shows a stylised cave entrance.  His comment was that the wine was undoubtedly better than the cave.

Moc Chau 989, Speleo Vietnam.  A 1996 Cotes du Rhone showing a caver either prussiking or abseiling off a map of Vietnam.

Renski Reisling. Produced for Postojnska Jama 1818-2000. The label is taken from a Schaffenrath print of 1825.

Valvasor penece vino. Similar to champagne produced in Ljubljana in the early 1990's.  The neck label is a portrait of J.W.Valvasor, explorer of caves and underground sources in the latter part of the 17ih century.  The bottle cork also carries his name.

Soft Drinks

Agua de Cuevas.  No cave shown on the label but from a cave spring in the Cantabrian Mountains of Spain.

Schweppes.  A German advertisement from Enzyklopadie des Schweppens lists Homo Schweppiens showing a frieze of prehistoric animals and a prehistoric hunter holding a bow in his right hand and a bottle of Schweppes to his lips with his left hand.


Just one item which is a brown cardboard box 5l¼ high x 6½ wide x 8¼ inches long.  All four sides are marked Mammoth Cave Twist Sweetened.  The box contained 2 dozen packets from the Scott Tobacco Company of Bowling Green, Kentucky.

I am deeply indebted to Tony Jarratt, Martin Mills, Trevor Shaw and Jan Paul van der Pas for awakening my interest and providing many hours of amusement.

Ray Mansfield. July 2000.