Batches of the rarest whiskey evaporated into thin air this week. Kentucky police are investigating the mysterious, abrupt disappearance of 65 cases of Pappy Van Winkle whiskey, the rarest bourbon in all the land, from its distillery that was discovered this week.
Tuesday, Frankfurt County authorities announced an investigation, led by Sheriff Pat Melton into an estimated 195 bottles of 20-year-old Pappy Van Winkle bourbon, which retails for $130 a bottle, stolen from the Buffalo Trace distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky over the last two months. (There's about three bottles to a case.) Another nine cases of the 13-year-old Pappy Van Winkle Rye, which retails for $69 a bottle, were missing too. In all, thieves made off with a haul worth over $26,000 at the liquor store. This morning, The New York Times' Trip Gabriel was on the case.
Authorities think it was inside job by some enterprising distillery employees. "I think it’s going to be a tough case to solve," Melton told the local newspaper. "You got about 50 employees that had access." Distillery employees wouldn't give up any information to the Times, either: "It’s the talk of the town," was all one unnamed employee would say.
To booze aficionados, bartenders and bourbon hounds, Pappy Van Winkle's worth is unmeasurable. We've discussed Pappy at The Atlantic Wire before, because it's "the bourbon everyone wants but no one can get," as our dearly departed Jen Doll put it. Normally fall is when Pappy purists finally get to put back a few shots of their favorite rarely bottled booze: about 7,000 bottles are shipped to liquor stores across the country around this time of year. Bottles fly off shelves; Pappy sells out in an instant.
This year, thanks to the heist, at least one percent of supply is already gone, and demand could not be higher. "We have people with literally billions of dollars who can’t find a bottle," said Julian Proctor Van Winkle III, the current head of the Wan Winkle family dynasty, describing the market for his family's prized booze blend in a July profile in Louisville Magazine. "They could buy a private jet in cash. They’d have an easier time buying our company." Shots can cost as much as $65 if you can find a bar with stock they're willing to sell. A single bottle of 20-year-old recently sold for more than $1,000 at auction. The bourbon is so in demand the head of the distillery can't even get a drop, as the Times' Gabriel found:
Even the chief executive of Buffalo Trace, Mark Brown, is out of luck. “I was in a steakhouse in Louisville Monday night which had three bottles of the 23-year-old locked in a display cabinet,” he said. “I had guests who were dying to try it, but they wouldn’t sell me any. They said, ‘No, this is just part of our stash.’ ”
But, hey, maybe your friend really does know a guy who procured a bottle of 20-year-old Pappy last week. Just don't ask where it came from.