​Bourbon crime ring busted in Kentucky

Kentucky authorities make arrests in bourbon ... 02:05

LAWRENCEBURG, Ky. -- The culprits behind a bourbon heist in Kentucky have been caught, according to Franklin County Sheriff Pat Melton. Given the spirit's popularity in the state, there was more than passing interest when Melton announced nine indictments connected to the heist.

For years distillers in Kentucky noticed a shortfall in spirits, but until the arrests they didn't know that some of their own workers were behind the mystery. The thieves stole more than a dozen 500 pound barrels, almost 300 bottles, a gallon jug -- all the booze boosted by the modern day bootleggers.

Of those bottles, 25 contained Pappy Van Winkle bourbon -- the rarest of nectars to aficionados.

Franklin County Sheriff Pat Melton announces arrests connected to stolen bourbon CBS News

"It's a very rare bourbon, and according to the people that love it, I mean they love it," said Melton. "Empty bottles have been going for several hundred dollars."

There were other brands stolen as well -- so much hooch that volunteer taste-testers have been offering their services to help the police tell one from the other.

"I've had several offers -- numerous offers -- yesterday afternoon and this morning already," said Melton.

Bottles of stolen whiskey marked with evidence tags CBS News

There are 5.3 million barrels of bourbon in the Bluegrass State -- that's more barrels than the number of people in Kentucky. The state is responsible for making 95 percent of the world's bourbon.

Jim Rutledge, the master distiller for Four Roses, has been in the bourbon business for 49 years. He says he's never seen business this good.

"We're in a boom right now that will be sustained for years and years and years to come," said Rutledge.

As for the thefts, nine stainless steel and countless wooden barrels are still missing, according to Melton, who -- for the record -- doesn't drink bourbon.

But Jim Rutledge does, and so do many, many others.

  • Dean Reynolds
    Dean Reynolds

    Dean Reynolds is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Chicago.