FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Another iconic bourbon brand in Kentucky has been targeted in a heist, but this time authorities say they have arrested a suspect caught with the stash of pricey whiskey in his backyard.
Franklin County sheriff's deputies responding to a tip recovered five barrels — each filled with bourbon — that were taken from the Wild Turkey Distillery at nearby Lawrenceburg, Sheriff Pat Melton said Thursday.
One arrest has been made so far as authorities continue to look into the pilfering of the popular whiskey that was still aging, the sheriff said.
"This investigation is going in several different directions," Melton said in an interview. "We're following up on our leads as we speak."
Each barrel is believed to carry a value of $3,700 to $6,000, but Wild Turkey officials took samples to determine the exact worth, the sheriff said. Labeling on each barrel had been spray-painted over, he said.
Bourbon coming off the still is put in new, charred oak barrels for aging in warehouses, an age-old process that gives the whiskey its distinctive taste and color.
Melton couldn't yet say if the heist was connected with the unsolved 2013 theft of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon and rye whiskey. That hard-to-get whiskey was taken from the Buffalo Trace Distillery at Frankfort.
"We are looking at that as this (investigation) goes out in different directions," Melton said.
That heist netted 195 bottles — or 65 cases — of 20-year-old Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve bourbon and 27 bottles — or nine cases — of 13-year-old Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye.
The missing whiskey had a retail value at the time of about $26,000.
Officers executing a search warrant found the five barrels of Wild Turkey bourbon behind a shed in the backyard of a Frankfort residence, Melton said.
The sheriff declined comment on what the suspect allegedly intended to do with the whiskey.
"They were sitting on the ground in the mud behind the shed," he said.
Gilbert Thomas Curtsinger, 45, was arrested Wednesday evening on charges including receiving stolen property over $10,000, the sheriff said. Other charges were second-degree possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia, he said.
Authorities also found about 25 firearms and a couple of silencers, he said.
Curtsinger pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Thursday in Franklin County District Court. He was released on bond, and a preliminary hearing was set for March 17.
Curtsinger's attorney, Kevin Fox, declined to discuss the case in a phone interview.
"It's way too early to comment on the case," Fox said. "There's a whole lot that we don't know yet."
The Wild Turkey brand is owned by Italian-based Gruppo Campari. Its U.S. subsidiary thanked the authorities for their work on the case and said it had begun its own internal investigation.
"We take this matter very seriously and support the pursuit of full legal action against anyone found in violation of local, state or federal government laws related to our business," Campari America, the U.S. subsidiary of Gruppo Campari, said in a statement.
Kentucky is home to about 95 percent of the world's bourbon production with brands such as Jim Beam, Evan Williams, Wild Turkey, Four Roses and Woodford Reserve.