US & Canada

Nine people in Kentucky charged over 'bourbon theft'

Evidence tags affixed to bottles of bourbon Image copyright AP
Image caption Evidence tags on recovered bottles of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon

Nine people in Kentucky have been charged with stealing large quantities of bourbon whiskey worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Authorities say the rogue distillery workers and their accomplices stole more of the spirit than any one person could drink in a lifetime.

The scheme lasted for years and involved Buffalo Trace and Wild Turkey distilleries.

The nine people are charged with engaging in organised crime.

They were selling the whiskey "fairly well below" its price in the retail market, say police.

Their secret plot began to fall apart when someone discovered whiskey barrels behind the shed of Gilbert Curtsinger, an employee at Buffalo Trace Distillery, whom authorities consider the mastermind of the scheme.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Kentucky is famous for its whiskey
Image copyright AP
Image caption Recovered bottles were displayed at a news conference

He has pleaded not guilty to the charges. He was also charged with trafficking in anabolic steroids. His wife, Julie, who does not work at the distillery, was also indicted.

Authorities believe the scheme has been going on since 2008 or 2009.

According to the Kentucky Distillers' Association, bourbon is the only native spirit of the US, as Congress declared in 1964. It is made with 51% or more corn.

Kentucky produces 95% of the world's supply of the brown spirit.

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