Pappy Van Winkle Family Orders Its Stolen Bourbon Destroyed

More than $100,000 of Pappy, Wild Turkey, and Rare Eagle were stolen since 2008.
More than $100,000 of Pappy, Wild Turkey, and Rare Eagle were stolen since 2008. Marvin Joseph / The Washington Post / Getty Images

Anyone hoping to snag an ultra-rare bottle of once-pilfered Pappy Van Winkle bourbon once it makes its way to the public is probably in for disappointment; the contents of those bottles will likely end up destroyed, not distributed.

This decade's most infamous heist wasn't about jewels, or a casino robbery planned by Danny Ocean, but dozens of cases and 500-pound barrels of bourbon, including Pappy, Wild Turkey, and Eagle Rare, totaling more than $100,000, stolen from Kentucky warehouses during an inside job by guys named Toby and Gilbert, and possibly tied to a crime syndicate. Nine suspects have been apprehended, and the whiskey has been rescued from Toby's backyard, but though the bottles could do some good at a charity auction, it's unlikely they'll survive. The Van Winkle family has said they'd like to see the bottles destroyed for fear of tampering, and the sheriff's office has pretty much said they'll see to it that those wishes are honored.

"I totally understand that," said Franklin County Sheriff Pat Melton," and I don’t have a problem with what he’s saying at all."

It's unlikely that the criminals in question would poison something so valuable — at least intentionally. But there are other things they could have done that would ruin the spirit inside, like adding water to dilute and increase the stolen product, or damaging the whiskey with other contaminants as they extracted drams to taste after the heist.

An argument could be made that the Van Winkles, or other whiskey experts, could easily test the whiskey and determine whether that happened. But if the Van Winkles are the owners, and they refuse to play ball, it makes that sort of authentication more difficult. To be fair, the booze is theirs anyway — something thieves should have remembered in the beginning. 


Of course, some people expect that the whiskey, if auctioned off to the public, would never actually be consumed. It would be too valuable a collector's piece to crack open, except maybe for the kind of jackass who might purchase a single copy of a Wu Tang album and taunt the public while pouring some out for his homies before quickly ending up in jail.

Remember that this fight is in the context of a severe Pappy shortage, as allocations slipped a bit in 2015 for the extremely rare and sought-after liquid. You can find a bottle right now, of course, if money isn't an option. But it's rare and getting rarer, so a bottle will run you over $1,000 in any trustworthy circumstances, and likely more as the year continues on.

So if Kentucky's Franklin County Sheriff's Department does happen to be saddled with the responsibility of destroying tens of thousands of dollars worth of whiskey, we just hope that, for the sake of mankind, they do it one ounce at a time.