Prized bottles of bourbon turning up on the black market

Marketing buzz results in high demand for scarce bottles of bourbon.

Scarce supply of Pappy Van Winkle drives demand

Bottles of Pappy Van Winkle retail for about $130. (Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery)

The great Pappy Van Winkle bourbon heist of October 2013 is no laughing matter.

65 cases, worth $25,000, disappeared from the distillers' warehouse last month.

The product has a hokey name that capitalizes on a unique Old South, Kentucky heritage that goes back to the late 19th century.

But bottles of Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve is considered by aficionados to be among the best bourbons available. The theft represents a certain desirability that is relatively new in the bourbon world.   

Simon Ogden is a cocktail bartender at Veneto in Victoria, B.C. which has been rated among the best whiskey destinations in the world by Whiskey Magazine.

"Bourbon is finally coming into its age," Ogden says. "When I started in this business a couple of decades ago it was considered pretty roughneck stuff. You think of Hunter S. Thompson swigging Wild Turkey. We grew up thinking it was the nastiest gasoline. As it turns out, Wild Turkey is a sublime, craft-made brilliant whiskey."

The change came after some successful marketing and an industry that has played a very long game to gain a foothold alongside all those long celebrated single malts from Scotland.

The Pappy Tracker App is available to help track down the elusive bottles. (Apple)
The recent whiskey heist and a growing black market aren't the only sign of a coveted product. This month, the internet has been abuzz with bourbon nerds trying to track down their very own bottle of the scarce Pappy Van Winkle, which retails for about $130.

Pappy tracking apps have cropped up, there have been lineups outside liquor outlets and bottles are ending up on the black market for hundreds more than they're worth.
"The fervour behind the pursuit of Pappy Van Winkle has reached unprecedented levels right now," Ogden says. "There are photographs of hundreds of people lining up for only about 7000 cases that go around the world."

Canadian liquor agencies have seen very few cases of the stuff, there are only a few dozen across the entire country.



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