Covering Kentucky

Dec 2, 2013 6:45 PM

Reward Offered In Case Of Missing Bourbon

LOUISVILLE (AP) - Authorities trying to solve a distillery heist that netted cases of prized Kentucky bourbon have monitored websites and interviewed more than 100 people since the pricey whiskey was taken weeks ago. Now a cash reward is getting mixed in.

Franklin County Sheriff Pat Melton on Monday dangled a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever stole the hard-to-get Pappy Van Winkle bourbon and rye whiskey. The whiskey was taken from the Buffalo Trace Distillery at Frankfort in mid-October.

The heist netted 195 bottles - or 65 cases - of 20-year-old Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve bourbon and 27 bottles - or nine cases - of 13-year-old Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye. The missing whiskey has a retail value of about $26,000.

"We're just trying to bring Pappy home," Melton said.

The theft has become a compelling mystery in a state that produces 95 percent of the world's bourbon and is home to more barrels of aging bourbon than people.

A crime stopper's organization put up $1,000 of the reward, Melton said, but he declined to identify any other donor.

The sheriff predicted his detectives will crack the case and said the money will aid that effort.

"The net is narrowing," he said. "It's getting tighter. Our focus is narrowing down on some folks."

Melton said nothing has been ruled out, but added: "With the nature of this crime and the manner that it's happened ... it would lead one to believe that it was an inside job."

Detectives continue to gather leads and have been monitoring Craigslist, eBay and bourbon blogs in hopes of tracking down the pilfered spirits, the sheriff said.

"We've got a lot of eyes and ears out there in partnerships that are helping us," Melton said.

Bourbon fans want to know who took part of the limited Pappy Van Winkle stock because "that's less that they have an opportunity to get," he said.

With all the attention given to the stolen whiskey, he said, "it's made it extremely hot to try to move or sell right now."

Pappy is among the nation's most sought-after bourbons, with limited production at Buffalo Trace for the Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery.

A Buffalo Trace spokeswoman declined comment Monday, saying it would be inappropriate to comment on an ongoing investigation.

A spokesman for the Van Winkle brand did not immediately reply to an email seeking comment.

The reputation of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon and its limited supplies have given the product considerable cache.

Gordon Jackson, owner of Old Town Wine and Spirits in Louisville, said it's extremely difficult to get an allocation of Pappy. His store gets at least 20 or 30 calls daily from people seeking the product, he said.

"Whenever we do have it, we really never admit to having it and we kind of stash it and hope to get it to our better customers," he said.

His store periodically scores a supply and charges $110 per bottle for the 20-year-old Pappy bourbon.

"The whiskey is extremely good," Jackson said. "That one has a lot of lore, a lot of mystique and it's really, really good."

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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