The Great Rye Whiskey Caper

What do J.P. Brennan, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, a 62 year old caretaker and the owner of a converted B&B have in common?  They are all pieces to a ghastly puzzle involving theft, deception, intrigue, and coveted, antique booze.  So, without further ado, we would like to paint you a picture:

     It was a dark and stormy night (kitsch intended).  Cracked flashes of lightning illuminated the cavernous interior of an old Pennsylvania mansion, casting eerie shadows across the floor.  A fire roared and crackled away in one of the ornate fireplaces upstairs, and little knew that a dastardly crime was about to take place, a crime involving the theft of none other than…9 cases of pre-Prohibition hooch!  The stage has been set, but this is well out of the league of The Hardy Boys..better to leave this to Scottdale’s finest.
     The mansion in question is located in Scottdale, Pennsylvania, and was built by titan of industry J.P. Brennan, who made his bucks in the coal and coke industry.  His love of whiskey was legendary, as it was common knowledge that he was always greeted on his return home from a hard day’s work with a shot of rye right at the doorstep (undoubtedly before hanging up his hat and coat.)  Brennan had procured himself ten cases of Old Farm Pure Rye Whiskey in 1917, which were distilled and bottled at none other than the West Overton Distillery, which was owned and operated by fellow robber barons Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick.
      Our first character in the mystery is a one Patricia Hill of New York, who took it upon herself to purchase Brennan’s antique estate from his daughter in 1986 and transform it into a stately B&B called the South Broadway Manor Bed and Breakfast (opening in December of last year).  Renovating this old mansion was quite a task, and cost Mrs. Hill a staggering $800,000 to make it what it is today.  Additionally, Hill put her trust in an innocent 62 year old caretaker named John Saunders, who himself lived on the premises and helped with the day-to-day upkeep, maintenance, and chores associated with running the establishment.
     During the renovation of the mansion, workers found 9 cases of this historic PA treasure hiding safely within the walls and underneath the staircase, where Brennan himself undoubtedly stashed them in haste during the scare of Prohibition.  Mr. Saunders helped Hill to move the whiskey about and clean it up a bit, and for all intents and purposes these cases were intended only to be preserved since the bottles were sealed and in very decent condition.  After awhile, when Hill returned to clean up the bottles and cases once more, she found a horrible crime had occurred: 52 bottles had been drained of their precious contents, but that wasn’t all.  After the theft occurred, the bottles were appraised by famous New York auction house Bonhams, and their value was beyond anything anyone had expected.  $102,400 worth of whiskey was missing!
     Old Mr. Saunders, despite adamantly denying the theft, was the first suspect for guzzling this pre-Prohibition treasure.  After failing to show up for a cheek swab to obtain a DNA sample, his culpability became more apparent and he began sealing his own fate.  Police finally tracked him down and got the sample they needed to put the pieces together.  As it turns out, it was Saunders after all, as his DNA matched that found on the lips of three of the whiskey bottles in question.
     So, as we close the case on this epic whiskey caper, always remember that when it comes to missing bottles of pre-Prohibition rye whiskey, trust no-one..but suspect everyone!
By Max Stein
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