A bourbon heist at a high-end Kentucky distillery has left tongues wagging in elite whiskey circles and some small-town cops wondering whodunit.
The Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort noticed this week that it was missing some of its 20-year-old Pappy Van Winkle, one of the rarest and most sought after bourbons in the world.
"It's highly coveted," said Franklin County Sheriff Pat Melton, the man leading the investigation. "It's the best of the best."
Melton said the distillery called him on Tuesday to report that 65 cases, or 195 bottles, of the high-end hard stuff were unaccounted for.
Nine cases of Pappy Van Winkle rye were also missing.
"We believe whoever did this took them out the back from the secured area over a period of two months" Melton said. "Obviously, the way this happened, it's indicative of an inside job."
Buffalo Trace did not respond to requests for comment, but Melton said the distillery employs about 50 people and operates two shifts.
Just how coveted is Pappy Van Winkle? While the listed retail price is $130 per bottle, the bourbon is so rare that consumers usually end up paying much more to get a bottle, if they can find one, said Tom Fischer of bourbonblog.com.
"There is a lot of mystery around how to even get one," he said.
One place to get one is online retailer dukeofbourbon.com, where a bottle of 20-year-old Pappy Van Winkle costs $1,199.
"It's the pinnacle of bourbon," gushed Fischer. "If you're around a bottle, it's a special occasion."
Melton said officials are in the early stages of the investigation, and will be on the lookout for any bottles popping up on the black market.
But the thief might not be in any rush, Fischer said.
"If you keep bourbon in the right conditions, it will be good forever."
"You have to wonder what's going to happen to the 195 stolen bottles," said Kit Codik, CEO of the all-things cocktail website Liquor.com. "It's like when a van Gogh goes missing: Where does that rare piece of art end up? I have no idea."