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Caretaker says missing vintage rye rotgut

March 28, 2013 at 2:24 PM

SCOTTDALE, Pa., March 28 (UPI) -- A former caretaker swears he never touched a drop of the vintage whiskey he had been told to safeguard at a Pennsylvania bed-and-breakfast.

John Saunders maintained the rye whiskey, which had been bottled around World War I, probably evaporated on its own, and likely wasn't worth the six-figure price tag his employer, Patricia Hill, had placed on it.

"I think Pat is ... looking for money," Saunders said after his initial appearance before a Scottdale judge. "I would say that whiskey's real value is about $10 a bottle and she hired someone to inflate the price."

The liquor was discovered hidden behind a wall in the historic J.P. Brennan mansion in 2011. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review said the rye was the product of a distillery once owned by 19th Century tycoons Andrew Mellon and Henry Frick.

Hill said that based on recent auction prices, the 52 empty bottles of Old Farm Pure Rye Whiskey were worth $102,400.

The newspaper said Scottdale police allege they found Saunders' DNA on the mouths of the empty bottles. But Saunders, however, insisted he wouldn't touch the stuff regardless of price. "That stuff had floaters in it and all kind of stuff inside the bottles," he said. "I don't think it would even be safe to drink."

Saunders was ordered to return to court for further proceedings May 15.

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