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Reward offered in case of prized, purloined Kentucky bourbon

| Monday, Dec. 2, 2013, 7:30 p.m.

LOUISVILLE — 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.

Sheriff Pat Melton in Franklin County in Kentucky dangled a $10,000 reward on Monday 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 in Frankfort in mid-October.

The heist netted 195 bottles of 20-year-old Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve bourbon and 27 bottles 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 say who else pitched in. With money aiding the effort, he predicted his detectives would crack the case.

“The net is narrowing,” he said.

Melton said nothing has been ruled out.

Detectives have been monitoring Craigslist, eBay and bourbon blogs in hopes of tracking down the pilfered spirits, Melton said, adding many other “eyes and ears” of bourbon lovers are alert for the missing stock.

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 explained.

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 on Monday, citing the ongoing investigation.

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

Gordon Jackson, owner of Old Town Wine and Spirits in Louisville, said it's extremely difficult to get an allocation of Pappy, and his store is called every day by those seeking the product.

“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.”

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