Couple finds prohibition-era whiskey in secret passage

Bootleg booze from the 1920s
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Photo: Bettmann (Getty Images)

There are three things that can be found inside the walls of an old house: vermin, corpses, or incredibly cool shit. Nick Drummond and Patrick Bakker of are amongst the lucky ones: while doing renovations of their Ames, New York, home, they discovered dozens of bottles of illicit prohibition-era whiskey that for nearly a century was undisturbed by G-Men, critters, or spooky ghosts.

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“We were just working on removing old finishes and everything and that’s when we found those first secret compartments,” said Drummond in an interview with Today. “I was taking this thing off and this whole thing fell out. At first, I assumed it was just insulation or something then I was like, why is there glass?”

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“When I saw that there was the edge of another package it did hit me, like holy crap, this is bootleg booze,” he explained. “The thing is, it wasn’t just one, then it wasn’t just two, it was the entire wall.”

Neighbors had told the couple the home had been built by notorious local bootlegger Adolph Humpfner, but they took the stories with a grain of salt, believing them to be more small town lore than historical fact. After the surprise discovery, Drummond and Bakker turned their attention to a secret hatch in their hardwood floor, which the previous owners said was little more than a crawl space that led to an abandoned well. How these owners managed to live on top of a secret passage without spending every day exploring it/converting it into a clandestine clubhouse, I’ll never understand.

Upon entering the hatch, the couple removed the wooden panels that were screwed into the house’s floorboards to create the crawl space’s “ceiling,” which was actually a secret hiding spot for even more booze.

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“We’re keeping at least one bottle to try,” Drummond told Today. “Any empties we’re probably going to keep with the house. The bundles in the floor for whatever reason — the first one at least — that I pulled out, it looked like all of the alcohol had dried up. So at that point, it’s more sentimental. I think we’re actually going to leave some in the floor and maybe do a glass panel so you can see the packages beneath.”

Allison Robicelli is The Takeout staff writer, a former professional chef, author of three books, and The People's Hot Pocket Princess. Questions about recipes/need cooking advice? Tweet @Robicellis.

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DISCUSSION

jellob1976
F.Y. Jones

I know all of the following can be answered with The Google, but here goes:

(1) Is it safe to consume still (or was it ever)? My understanding of extremely aged high proof booze is that it probably won’t hurt you, but it may not taste very good anymore;

(2) Is there any chance it will taste decent, or even good? No light, presumably pretty cool area sounds like a decent recipe....but it’s been in glass. So it’s not like it should pick up any flavors from the container;

(3) Is it legal for them to sell the bottles? Maybe as collectibles as opposed to “for consumption”?

(4) Would love to know what their worth is, especially if there’s a few dozen. That might be a neat little treasure, of the literal variety, that they stumbled upon.