Prized bottles of bourbon turning up on the black market
Scarce supply of Pappy Van Winkle drives demand
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."
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.