LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The mystery surrounding the theft of five barrels of Wild Turkey whiskey deepened Wednesday as company officials said there were no signs anyone broke into the warehouse where the aging bourbon was stolen.
The heist led authorities to a backyard in Franklin County, where the barrels holding the bourbon — weighing up to 500 pounds each — were recovered behind a shed last week. One man has been arrested, and Franklin County Sheriff Pat Melton said investigators have other suspects.
Tests confirmed the liquid inside the barrels was Wild Turkey bourbon distilled in 2009, said Dave Karraker, a spokesman for Campari America, the U.S. subsidiary of Wild Turkey owner's, Italian-based Gruppo Campari. Authorities said labeling on top of each stolen barrel had been spray-painted over.
The bourbon was slated to become Wild Turkey 101, the brand's flagship product, a blend of barrels typically aged for five to eight years, Karraker said.
Bourbon coming off the still is put in new, charred oak barrels for aging in warehouses, a traditional process that gives the whiskey its distinctive taste and color. The stolen barrels weren't full, due to evaporation — known as the "angel's share — taking a small portion over time.
Wild Turkey has beefed up security across its operations since the theft and is doing a full inventory of its stockpiles of aging whiskey in Kentucky, Karraker said. Wild Turkey's distillery is at Lawrenceburg, which is in a county neighboring Franklin County.
The barrels — valued at about $3,000 each — were stolen from a warehouse at Wild Turkey's Camp Nelson property in central Kentucky, he said.
"A review of the premises shows no signs of forcible entry," Karraker said in a written statement. "Until the sheriff's department does a further investigation, we're not going to speculate on who might be involved," he added in an interview.
Melton said Wednesday that his office's investigation is "progressing nicely."
"Obviously, there was more than one person involved in this case," he said. "We are looking at several potential folks that are involved."
The one person arrested, Gilbert Thomas Curtsinger, 45, was charged with multiple offenses, including receiving stolen property over $10,000.
Curtsinger pleaded not guilty at his arraignment last week. Curtsinger appeared at a brief court hearing Tuesday and is due back in court next month. Curtsinger has been a longtime employee at Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort.
Curtsinger's attorney, Kevin Fox, declined to comment on the case Wednesday.
The Wild Turkey heist came two years after the unsolved theft of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon and rye whiskey. That hard-to-get whiskey was taken from the Buffalo Trace Distillery. Authorities haven't made any connection between the two cases in their public comments.
That heist netted 195 bottles of 20-year-old Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve bourbon and 27 bottles of 13-year-old Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye. That missing whiskey had a retail value at the time of about $26,000.
"We are actively working the Pappy case," Melton said. "It's an open investigation and we're following every lead we can."
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. The state's bourbon inventory has topped 5.3 million barrels.