The owner of an historic inn in Pittsburgh has brought charges against a former tenant she says was supposed safeguard 50 bottles of historic whiskey worth about $102,000. Hidden behind a basement staircase at a Westmoreland County mansion was a secret stash of liquid gold: Old Farm Pure Rye Whiskey.
The owner of the South Broadway Manor Bed and Breakfast, Patricia Hill, found 104 bottles of Old Farm Pure Rye Whiskey when she bought the historic mansion and converted it into a bed and breakfast. It had originally belonged to Pittsburgh businessman J.P. Brennan.
The whiskey had been distilled in 1912 and given to Brennan in 1918. “There were four cases, 52 bottles, manufactured by an old distillery here in the Township that went out of business many years ago,” Barry Pritts, chief of police in Scottdale, Pa., said today.
Homeowner Patricia Hill surmised Brennan hid the whiskey during Prohibition. Hill purchased the South Broadway mansion from Brennan’s daughter at auction in 1986. Since then, Hill has been remodeling the mansion and filling it with antiques in order to open a bed and breakfast, which she did in December 2012.
“The whiskey was buried right back here under these stairs. They were doing renovations down here for the plumbing and electrical and they had to rip out underneath the stairs. Whenever they did, they discovered nine cases of the Old Farm Pure Rye Whiskey,” said South Broadway Manor’s chef and innkeeper, Rick Bruckner. “The story with this isn’t just, ‘Hey, we have some really old whiskey.’ It’s, ‘Hey, we have some really old, historical whiskey.’”
Bruckner explained Brennan was acquainted with Henry Frick and Andrew Carnegie, among other important Pittsburghers during the early 1900s. He said the men would come over to the mansion and likely drank this whiskey.
In a criminal complaint, Scottdale Police Chief Barry Pritts wrote Saunders denied drinking the whiskey or removing labels from the bottles. Saunders reportedly told police he moved the cases to clean them several times but never opened any of the bottles.
A whiskey appraiser in New York City said the retail value of the missing whiskey is around $102,400. Pritts requested restitution in the amount of the full retail value.
“Saunders said that the whiskey probably evaporated and being that old, it was probably no good,” Pritts wrote.