Update: 200-year-old seltzer bottle contains alcohol

The 200-year-old salt-glazed stoneware bottle recovered from a shipwreck at the bottom of Gdańsk Bay off the coast of Poland does not contain its original prized mineral water from the internationally known springs of Selters, Germany. Or at least, that’s not all it contains. Testing at the J.S. Hamilton laboratory in Gdynia has found the contents are 14% alcohol distillate. The remaining 86% could still be the original seltzer water since its chemical composition is consistent with Selters mineral water.

It’s not certain what variety of distilled spirits is inside the bottle.

[A]ccording to the laboratory staff, the alcohol may be a kind of genever gin (jenever) – traditional liquor of the Netherlands and Belgium. “Did someone really pour this drink into a soda bottle, or are we dealing with a different beverage? Experts will try to determine this in another series of analyses, which will be completed in early September” – said [National Maritime Museum archaeologist Tomasz] Bednarz.

Chemical analysis suggests the alcohol is still potable in the sense that it won’t kill you, but it might make you wish you were dead.

The archaeologist added that according to laboratory workers, the alcohol in the bottle is suitable for drinking. “This means, it would not cause poisoning. Apparently, however, it does not smell particularly good” – he explained.

There’s a little more information about the bottle as well.

Bednarz explained that according to the latest findings, stoneware bottle recovered from the Gulf of Gdańsk was made in Ransbach, approx. 40 km from Selters springs. “The manufacturer was determined by reading the print under the main emblem +Selters HN+: letter R and the number 25, denoting the number of the manufacturer.

I looked for but couldn’t find any kind of master list of the manufacter names and their corresponding numbers. There were dozens of small producers in all the towns around Selters, so we know the town thanks to the R mark but not the shop.

6 thoughts on “Update: 200-year-old seltzer bottle contains alcohol

  1. Virtualy nobody could afford ‘alcohol’ when we were young, as back then all we had was beer ! …an elderly lady was letting us know last time in a certain beergarden. Were these types of bottles possibly some kind of ancient seafarer’s equivalent to a modern american brown paper-bag ?: ‘Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest —Yo-ho-ho, and an earthen bottle of Seltzer!’

  2. I found a piece on Edisto Beach, South Carolina 10 years or so ago of the “SELT..S +” with a lion inside the double circle wearing a small crown. I’m trying to find the same stamp but with the lion so I can tell more about the company and how it reached it’s final resting place on the beach. Can anyone help please? Thank you for your time. What an amazing time I’m having researching this simple piece of pottery.

  3. Hi, David,

    I also found a Herzogthum Nassau bottle on the beach in Massachusetts. What a surprise. It’s exciting that the bottle is old and has an interesting background, but it’s most interesting that it landed here on the shore, corked and in perfect condition, especially remarkable considering how stormy the winters have been.
    I’m also trying to figure out how it got here. That’s the real mystery.
    Maybe a shipwreck? Did you find out anything interesting about your bottle?
    We had German submarines off the coast here during WW II but the jug is most likely much older than that.
    Our local historical society is doing some research as well.
    Would love to hear what you’ve learned!


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