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Kentucky Priest Smuggles Ten Bottles of Bourbon for Pope Francis

American priest gives bourbon bottle to Pope Francis.

A Kentucky priest who is also a member of Pope Francis's Missionaries of Mercy smuggled ten bottles of Kentucky bourbon into the Vatican last week, presenting a very rare bottle of 23-year-old Pappy Van Winkle to the Holy Father.

"Pope Francis receiving his 23 yr old Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon as we shared our love of My Ole Kentucky Home!" Father Jim Sichko, a preacher, evangelist, and motivational speaker, tweeted with a picture of Pope Francis receiving the bourbon.

"They all laughed. It was like 'how did you do this?' It brought joy," Sichko told the Lexington Herald-Leader. He delivered the hard liquor in a private audience with the pope for the hundreds of papal Missionaries of Mercy. Sichko sat in the front row, and jumped forward to present the expensive bourbon to the Holy Father.

"He knew I was from Kentucky so when I handed it to him, he immediately said, 'bourbon,' and I said yes, and then he said, 'very good bourbon,'" the priest recalled.

Francis was correct: 23-year-old Pappy is very rare, and would cost hundreds of dollars on the open market.

Sichko did not pay for the bourbon himself. Looking forward to his visit to the Vatican, the priest said, "I was trying to figure out what would be special." A friend from Louisville got him the Pappy.

"I am not a connoisseur, but I know the great history of it in Kentucky and to be honest, I really felt that that was the bourbon to use," Sichko said. The friend knows Julian Van Winkle, and gave Sichko Van Wrinkle's cellphone number. After the event, the priest sent the bourbon master the pictures.

"Grazie, Father Jim, very cool," Van Winkle texted back. "Well, we sure don't need the publicity (not enough product) but this is awesome!!"

Expect Pappy Van Winkle to open another distillery sometime soon...

The bourbon master couldn't help but ask, "See if he'll send you a photo of him sipping some 23!!"

Sichko did not just bring one bottle to Rome, however. The priest also smuggled bottles of Van Winkle, Knob Creek, Four Roses, and Woodford Reserve bourbon for the Swiss guards and other Catholic officials.

"All the PAPPYS, 4 ROSES and WOODFORD RESERVE made it to give to Pope Francis and his security detail! Thanks Be to God!" Sichko tweeted.