$10,000 Reward in Stolen-Whiskey Case Won’t Actually Buy You Much Whiskey

Crime
A blog about murder, theft, and other wickedness.
Dec. 3 2013 3:42 PM

$10,000 Reward in Stolen-Whiskey Case Won’t Actually Buy You Much Whiskey

vanwinkle
A bottle of Pappy Van Winkle 20-year bourbon.

Creative Commons/craiglduncan

The Associated Press reports that Kentucky authorities are now offering a $10,000 reward for information that could help them catch the bandits who stole 74 cases of expensive, limited-edition whiskey from a Frankfort distillery this October. Sixty-five cases of Pappy Van Winkle 20-year-old bourbon went missing from the Buffalo Trace Distillery, along with nine cases of 13-year Van Winkle Family Reserve rye whiskey.

Investigators initially focused on a local man who allegedly tried to sell large quantities of Pappy Van Winkle 20-year to a liquor store. But the man is no longer a suspect, and authorities are now hoping that the reward money might help them turn up some better leads. The local sheriff, doing an admirable job as hype man, stressed to the media that $10,000 in reward money could make for “a heck of a Christmas.” You know what else would make for a heck of a Christmas? Seventy-four cases of rare and delicious whiskey.

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It’s highly unlikely that the thieves stole the whiskey for drinking purposes, given that Pappy Van Winkle 20-year can fetch a handsome sum on the secondary market. A bottle was listed at $900 on Craigslist this weekend—at that price, $10,000 wouldn’t even buy 12 bottles of the stuff.

Though the 20-year started out as a niche drink meant for serious whiskey enthusiasts, it soon became popular among wealthy philistines who believe that expensive things taste better. These people snatch up the 20-year as soon as it is released each year, and its retail scarcity thus inflates its black-market and online-resale value. That’s where the stolen whiskey went, you can bet on it. And the publicity surrounding the theft will only help raise the whiskey’s profile and push resale prices higher. Oh, those clever whiskey thieves! And for those who love Pappy Van Winkle, those higher prices might make for a very sad Christmas indeed.

Justin Peters is a writer for Slate. He is working on a book about Aaron Swartz, copyright, and the rise of “free culture.” Email him at justintrevett@fastmail.fm.