'Drinkable' 200-year-old bottle of booze discovered in shipwreck

The ancient vessel is thought to contain 14 per cent vodka or gin

Archaeologists exploring a shipwreck off the coast of Poland have discovered an ancient bottle of booze that's thought to be 200-years-old. Even more exciting, it’s still drinkable.

The one-litre stoneware bottle is stamped with its original ‘Selters’ brand – a name referring to the ancient spa town of Selters in the Taunus mountains of Germany which has been famous for its naturally carbonated soda water for nearly 1,000 years.

A chemical analysis of the liquid contained within the bottle suggests that it’s a mix of water and spirits – either vodka or jenever gin – with an alcoholic content of 14 per cent. 

The bottle was found along with fragments of cargo off the Gulf of Gdańsk. Experts aren’t sure how the alcohol got into the perfectly preserved bottle, but suggest it could have been poured in after purchase sometime between 1806 and 1830 – a very early mixed drink.

Researchers speaking to Polish science site Nauka W Polsce confirmed that despite its age the alcohol was still drinkable. "This means it would not cause poisoning,” said National Maritime Museum archaeologist Tomasz Bednarz.  “Apparently, however, it does not smell particularly good.”

Underwater archaeologist Tomasz Bednarz holds the ancient bottle. Image: National Maritime Museum, Gdańsk

This recent discovery is notable for being so well-preserved, but scientists have found archaeological evidence of alcohol production dating back at least 7,000 years.

Six nine-litre jars discovered in a Neolithic home in Hajji Firuz Tepe (modern Iran) are thought to constitute the oldest evidence of brewing booze, but for tipple that's actually drinkable you can’t stray much further than the last couple of centuries.

One of the most notable examples of ancient booze (a good round up by io9 can be founder here) comes from 2010 when 168 bottles of champagne were salvaged from a shipwreck off the Finnish archipelago of Aaland.

Official tasting notes for the bottles reported that one vintage (Veuve Clicquot) was light and floral while another (Juglar) had "notes of orange and raisin, like a Christmas cake".

Sommeliers who were summoned to taste the ancient drinks commented that the dark and cool conditions of the shipwreck had proved ideal for storing the bottles - although fetching them up was a little inconvenient.

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