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Father Jim Sichko of Lexington, Kentucky, passed off a bottle to the Pontiff as a gift.

Mike Pomranz
April 17, 2018

Turns out being the Pope has some serious, very earthly, benefits. In the case of Pope Francis, he recently scored some pretty choice whiskey. Or as His Holiness called it, “very good bourbon.”

Last week, Father Jim Sichko, who serves as one of America’s Papal Missionaries of Mercy, was lucky enough to have a private audience with Pope Francis at The Vatican, and the preacher based out of the Dioceses of Lexington, Kentucky, choose not to come empty-handed. As Sichko posted on Twitter, he brought along a gift from “My Ole Kentucky Home”—a bottle of 23-year-old Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon.

Somewhat incredibly, Sichko said that Pope Francis immediately understood what was going down. “He knew I was from Kentucky,” the father said according to the Lexington Herald Leader, “so when I handed it to him, he immediately said ‘bourbon’ and I said yes, and then he said ‘very good bourbon.’” As if you bring the Pope any other kind?

The Pappy exchange was able to happen because Sichko asked a friend to get him something “special.” That friend knows Julian Van Winkle personally, so after Sichko passed the bottle to the Pope, he texted Van Winkle photos—to which Julian gave probably the most Van Winkle response you could imagine: “Grazie, Father Jim, very cool…. Well, we sure don’t need the publicity (not enough product) but this is awesome!!”

Meanwhile, it wasn’t just his Holiness who landed some lauded Kentucky bourbon. As Sichko showed in another tweet, he actually brought a stash of at least ten bottles with him to hand out at The Vatican. “All the PAPPYS, 4 ROSES and WOODFORD RESERVE made it to give to Pope Francis and his security detail!” he said of the bottles, which he was worried wouldn’t make it through airport security. “Thanks Be to God!” That’s a sentiment any traveler can understand, Catholic or not.

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