$10K reward offered after theft of rare Pappy Van Winkle bourbon - KYTX CBS 19 Tyler Longview News Weather Sports

$10K reward offered after theft of rare Pappy Van Winkle bourbon

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(CBS NEWS) - It's not easy to get a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon and now, whiskey fans will find it's even harder after a recent burglary.

In October, 195 bottles of the Kentucky-made spirit went missing from the Buffalo Trace Distillery. Since then, police have interviewed 100 people and searched Craigslist and blogs for traces of the stolen goods, but the bourbon is still missing and police here are raising the stakes.

On Monday, Franklin County sheriff Pat Melton announced a $10,000 reward for tips leading to an arrest in the case.

"This is something that's going to be significant to us," he said.  "I'm expecting this to make a huge difference to us."

Bourbon production is big business in Kentucky and there are more barrels produced here than there are people. However, Pappy Van Winkle markets just 7,000 cases of its secret corn, wheat and barely recipe each year, making it one of the most prized and rare bourbons in the world. One bottle aged for 20 years can retail for more than $200.

"It's very hard to find, it's also incredibly highly regarded as one of the best bourbons in the country," said Clay Risen, a New York Times staff editor and bourbon expert. "Partly a matter of the lore they have built up, it is the story behind it and making it something everyone wants that no one can find."

The bourbon has been made even rarer by the recent theft.  The estimated value of the stolen bourbon is around $26,000, but could be worth hundreds of thousands to those who are willing to pay for it.

"The secondary market, the black market and gray market for whiskey is pretty robust and someone like this with the right connections, could probably unload it relatively easily," said Risen.

Kenneth McCoy owns Ward 3, a bar in Manhattan that, as of now, serves three different ages of Pappy Van Winkle. He says customers call every day asking if they carry the bourbon. One ounce of the 20-year-old Pappy sells here for $50. 

"Pappy Van Winkle has basically become the Brad Pitt of bourbon and whiskey," said McCoy.

Since it disappeared from the distillery in Kentucky, bourbon lovers across the country have been wondering how it will affect the supply.

"It has made people look at it and say ‘Oh my god I have to get some of this'" said McCoy. "So it's upped the ante on Pappy Van Winkle."

Officials in Kentucky told CBS News' Anna Werner that they have received over 30 tips so far and have interviewed several people. Werner said they're hoping the Christmas season is a good incentive to come forward.

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