'Pappy' whisky theft bottles may be destroyed, not auctioned

It's the news whisky collectors were afraid of. 28 stolen bottles of rare and valuable Pappy Van Winkle bourbon whisky could be destroyed rather than auctioned.

Pappy Van Winkle whisky
A judge will decide...

The bottles were part of a haul of valuable whisky confiscated by US officials last year during investigations into a large-scale whisky crime ring.

Prosecutors claimed the ring of nefarious distillery employees had stolen more than 50 cases of Eagle Rare bourbon and 20 cases of Pappy Van Winkle, which has been produced using a family recipe since the 1800s. More than $100,000 in bourbon was stolen in all.

Franklin County sheriff Pat Melton had announced plans to auction the 28 bottles for charity. Yet he is now backing down from those remarks, after the company's Julian Van Winkle III aired concerns the bottles may have been tampered with.

The company is likely worried the release of potentially faulty bottles onto the market could reduce customer confidence in the brand.

Speaking of the auction, Melton had said he wanted to see something good come from the theft, but added that he respects Van Winkle's wishes.

The decision will ultimately come down to a judge.

"The whiskey lovers boo and the conspiracy theorists say the Van Winkles are loving the attention…again," commented whisky writer Fred Minnick on his website.

Particularly rare single bottles of "Pappy" can auction for up to $20,000 in top condition, such is the desirability and rarity of the brand. The notoriety of these bottles would likely ensure particularly strong interest.  

A rare bottle of Japanese whisky will auction later in the month.

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