Oregon Officials Fired For Hoarding Pappy Van Winkle And Other Prized Bourbons

Bourbon enthusiasts and fans of the Netflix documentary series "Heist" are probably already familiar with the tale of "Pappygate." For those unfamiliar with this caper of purloined booze, here's a brief recap. In 2013, Gilbert Curtsinger was arrested for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of bourbon from his employer, Buffalo Trace (via Garden & Gun). This was a disturbingly long con, occurring over years and with Curtsinger not just lifting bottles, but whole barrels of whiskey from his clueless workplace.

Why was it dubbed Pappygate? Well, the "pappy" part comes from Curtsinger's hottest black market bottle, the elusive Pappy Van Winkle, and the "gate" part hints at the lingering scandal around the case: Curtsinger claims to have been just one thief in a whole ring of scalawags, but no one else has ever been prosecuted.

The expensive thirst for Pappy Van Winkle has led to other illegal acts, like Esquire's story of the Pappy Van Winkle forgery scheme. Of course, other bottles of bourbon have been the lynchpin for crimes as well—take the recent Blanton's counterfeit scandal. But there's just something about Pappy's. The podcast "Gravy," summed it up best: "you can't get it unless you're exceptionally lucky or you're willing to break the law."

Well, once again, this tantalizing bottle of bourbon has inspired some people to massively misbehave.

Insider trading, bourbon-style

According to the Guardian, an internal investigation found six officials of the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission, including executive director Steve Marks, guilty of using their connections to gain special access to rare bottles of whiskey. While the officials personally paid for the whiskey, they used their insider info and pull to divert the scarce bottles toward their own liquor cabinets. 

Governor Tina Kotek stated that all six have been fired from their positions as this behavior qualified as an ethical violation of the highest order (via NBC News). In addition, the governor has asked Oregon State Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum to pursue a further civil investigation into how widespread the collusion goes. At the very least, stricter protocols are expected to be put in place as a result of this bourbon bust. Marks claims that he never violated any ethical laws or state policy but conceded that he might have received some preferential treatment. 

A particular bottle of bourbon the officials cut corners to get to? You guessed it, Pappy Van Winkle 23, one of the rarest and priciest bourbons in the world. It begs the question: When is the next Faustian bargain to be struck for this bourbon? As long as Pappy Van Winkle remains hard to get, people will continue to play dirty to get it.