Sunday, January 31, 2016

"How one distillery worker enlisted friends, family, and a few fellow steroid enthusiasts to liberate hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of premium bourbon, one barrel at a time."

The Great Whiskey Heist:

in 1969, bourbon was in the dumps. The postwar gentleman's drink was giving way to booze that went better with cranberry juice and pink umbrellas. By 1976, vodka had become America's most popular liquor. Distilleries throughout Kentucky shut down or were sold.

...

When Julian Van Winkle III took over the company, in 1981, he was selling so little whiskey that he decided to try an experiment. Most bourbon spends between four and eight years inside a barrel. Van Winkle wanted to see what would happen if he let some of his sit in the barrel for, well, he wasn't quite sure how long.

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the Beverage Testing Institute, which, in 1997, after Van Winkle had finally opened his barrels, handed his 20-year-old whiskey a 99 rating — the highest ever given to a bourbon. The timing of that rating couldn't have been better. The craft beer movement was reviving American tastes for alcohol with flavor, and bourbon presented itself as a sophisticated drink with a sheen of frontier authenticity.

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the demand still outpaces supply — after all, it takes 23 years to make 23-year-old bourbon. An app and a Twitter feed track Pappy sightings; even empty Pappy bottles can sell for $300. If you want the real thing, your best option just might be to steal some.