Franklin County

Pappy's gone! Dozens of cases of premium bourbon missing from distiller

Julian Van Winkle III held a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle 20-year-old bourbon at the Buffalo Trace Distillery. Buffalo Trace and Van Winkle did not respond immediately for comment.
Julian Van Winkle III held a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle 20-year-old bourbon at the Buffalo Trace Distillery. Buffalo Trace and Van Winkle did not respond immediately for comment. Herald-Leader

Sixty-five cases of 20-year-old Pappy Van Winkle — yes, perhaps the most unobtainable and expensive bourbon on the planet — have been stolen.

Franklin County Sheriff Pat Melton said that Tuesday afternoon his deputies were called to Buffalo Trace, where it had been discovered that over the last two months the bourbon had been spirited out of the Frankfort distillery.

"The detectives got it this morning," Melton said Wednesday. "We're working it as an internal theft."

His office has contacted federal authorities as well, who are working with detectives.

Buffalo Trace and Julian Van Winkle did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

Melton said that there were about 3 bottles per case, or 195 in all, missing. Nine cases of 13-year-old Pappy Van Winkle Rye also were stolen, according to the police report, which put the total value of the stolen goods at $26,025.

The retail price for 20-year-old Pappy Van Winkle is usually listed for about $200. The rye sells for about $80 a bottle.

"This would be felony theft," Melton said.

But the street price could be much more: one online store was sold out at $267 a bottle. Only about 6,000 to 7,000 cases of Pappy are released each year, so the missing Pappy could be as much as 1 percent of this year's supply of all Pappy Van Winkle bourbon. But the 20-year-old Pappy is much more limited in supply.

"I'm being told that it's going for $300-$400 a bottle, if you can find it," Melton said. "As you know, it's a very, very rare, expensive bourbon, very sought after. As far as bourbon goes, it's one of the best."

Melton said his detectives are scouring eBay, Craigslist and other online sites for clues as to who might have black-market Pappy.

"We're working it as hard as we can. They have good internal controls; this is just one of those things that happened," Melton said. Sazerac, Buffalo Trace's parent, he said, are "great corporate partners, and we're going to work hard to help them."

Like many Kentuckians, Melton has never tasted Pappy Van Winkle.

"I'll be honest, if I like something, I like it a whole, whole lot," he said. "It scares me. I've never had it just for that reason."

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader

  Comments