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The Bourbon Theft

Oct 18, 2013 | By Jack Bettridge

First of all, I'd like to profess my complete innocence in the case of the missing 65 three-bottle cases of Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve 20 Year bourbon and nine bottles of Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye taken from Buffalo Trace Distillery, in Frankfort, Kentucky.

My defense rests on three pillars. 1) I have an alibi: I wasn't stealing Bourbon in Kentucky at the time, but drinking at my local pub, where I can produce several patrons who will have foggy memories of that; 2) I'm sober at this writing: I think everyone can agree that had I taken that much of the magical elixir that is Pappy's I would have put a serious dent in that $26,000 worth of whiskey by now; 3) Police believe it was an inside job: No one in their right mind would hire me to work in a Bourbon distillery.

That said, the irony of this is not the robbery of the distillery, but that there is any such thing as a Bourbon worth $130 a bottle. (That is if you could find it; I'm sure the thieves plan to sell the bottles for much more, just like you wouldn't sell smuggled Cubans at list price.) Not that they're not worth it, but it wasn't so long ago that the Bourbon market was flagging and no one could have conceived of a bottle fetching that much money. Nor that there would be 20-year-old Bourbon at all. Nor that there would be a rye that anyone would consider worth stealing.

On the other hand, it may just may be that the earlier lack of respect for American whiskey—the same market conditions that closed the Stitzel-Weller distillery where Pappy Van Winkle, the man himself, once plied his trade—gave us the first examples of these remarkable spirits, albeit in short supply. After all, if this country had shown an appreciation for its own whiskey decades ago, no one would have let it reach such old age.

On a more serious note, this whiskey theft is yet another example of the newfound love of Bourbon and other American whiskeys. For much more on the subject, read my feature story "America's Whiskey" from the October Cigar Aficionado, on newsstands now.

"I think it was the same guys that broke into the Alec Bradley warehouse in Florida. The should be caught and shot. I guess the waiting list for Pappi at my local liquor store, is going to be even longer now. Damn" —October 22, 2013 08:41 AM
"Very well said. And I enjoyed your article in CA as well." —October 18, 2013 17:12 PM

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