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Shipwreck yields 200-year-old bottle of drinkable booze

"This means, it would not cause poisoning," Bednarz told PAP, confirming that the liquor is drinkable. "Apparently, however, it does not smell particularly good."
By Brooks Hays   |   Aug. 18, 2014 at 11:45 AM   |   Comments

GDAńSK, Poland, Aug. 18 (UPI) -- Divers exploring a 200-year-old shipwreck -- the F53.31 shipwreck -- in the Baltic Sea's Gulf of Gdańsk, off the coast of Poland, surfaced with a sealed stoneware bottle earlier this summer. Now, scientists at J.S. Hamilton Poland, a lab testing facility, have confirmed that the bottle contains alcohol.

The bottle is imprinted with the name "Selters," the original brand of Selters water, a natural mineral water sourced from wells in the area of Selters, near the town of Hesse in Germany's Taunus mountains. The seal on the bottle suggests it was produced in the town of Ransbach, just 25 miles from the original Selters springs. Between 1806 and 1830, local bottlers in the towns surrounding the springs produced almost a million bottles of the mineral water.

But the alcohol inside proves the mineral water (or most of it) was consumed, and the ancient sailors -- being the resourceful and environmentally conscious consumers that they were -- reused the bottled for inebriation purposes.

"They have found that the bottle contains 14 percent alcohol distillate, possibly diluted with water, whose chemical composition corresponds to that of Selters soda," Tomasz Bednarz, an archaeologist with the National Maritime Museum and the leader of the shipwreck exploration, told Polish news site PAP.

Lab technicians suggest the alcohol may be a form of genever gin, or jenever, a liquor traditionally favored in the Netherlands and Belgium. "This means, it would not cause poisoning," Bednarz told PAP, confirming that the liquor is drinkable. "Apparently, however, it does not smell particularly good."

The bottle is still to undergo more tests, which researchers hope will confirm whether the insides are indeed gin mixed with soda water or another type of liquor altogether.

The alcoholic Selters isn't the only ancient foodstuff to be pulled from the wreckage. In 2009, divers found a stoneware jar full of butter and a bottle of beer.

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