Mansion Keeper Downs $102,000 of Pre-Prohibition Whiskey

By Bryan Le 03/25/13

After a historic bender, the caretaker of a Pittsburgh mansion faces criminal charges.

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A drinker leaves his mark on history.
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Talk about a hangover for the history books! John Saunders, 62, faces criminal charges for downing $102,000 worth of pre-Prohibition whiskey stored in the historical Pittsburgh mansion he was care taking. The bottles were lifted from nine cases of Old Farm Pure Rye Whiskey that had been discovered in the walls by owner Patricia Hill, when she was converting the mansion into a bed and breakfast. The mansion was built by J.P. Brennan, a coal industrialist who loved his liquor. “My guess is that Mr. Brennan ordered 10 cases…pre-Prohibition,” Hill told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I was told by his family that family members used to greet him at the door each day with a shot of whiskey.” The whiskies, still unopened since they were bottled in 1917, were worth more than $1,000 per bottle. Saunders allegedly drank 52 of them, adding up to more than $100,000. The former caretaker initially denied it, claiming the booze had simply evaporated over the past century, but DNA from the saliva on the bottles was found to match his. “This whole experience has shocked me,” says Hill. “I was shocked when I found them, shocked to find Mr. Saunders drank them, and shocked when I received the appraisal. I had just planned to preserve them.” The now-empty bottles still hold a value of $100 to $200 each. Saunders is charged with receiving stolen property and theft, and his case will be heard Wednesday.

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter