20 Cases Of Pappy Van Winkle Were Once Stolen In A Major Heist

If you are a connoisseur of rare bourbon, you've probably tried to get your hands on a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle before. The collector's bourbon, produced by Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky, is almost more famous for its hefty price tag than it is for its quality.

A limited number of bottles are released per year, and these sell out instantaneously, creating outlandish margins of potential profit on the bourbon black market. Despite retailing for between $80 and $250, bottles of Pappy regularly sell on the secondary market for over $5,000 each.

With that kind of money to be made, it was only a matter of time before someone with the right opportunity and the wrong kind of grit decided to try and make a profit off of Pappy acquired through less common channels.

In 2013, Pappy Van Winkle took over the headlines when 20 cases of the rare bourbon were reported missing from the distillery. This was no small feat, and while you might expect a heist of this scale to be the work of some big-time bourbon mafia, it might surprise you to find out that the person who fell under public fire for the crime was simply a working-class Kentucky dad who may have taken advantage of an unusually beneficial workplace environment.


Pappygate was a subject of a two-part episode titled "The Bourbon King" in the Netflix documentary series "Heist." The show follows Gilbert "Toby" Curtsinger, who allegedly began smuggling bottles of bourbon after working for more than twenty years at the Buffalo Trace distillery.

According to VinePair, Curtsinger and his wife Julie stole an estimated $100,000 of booze between 2008 and 2015, but he has claimed that it was commonplace for employees to take bottles home, and that many still participate in this system. Curtsinger pleaded guilty to charges of theft, receiving stolen property, and trafficking in controlled substances in 2017, but only served 30 days in prison despite a 15-year sentence.

Some have pointed out oversights in both the documentary and general coverage of Curtsinger's trial, such as the fact that he was never actually found in possession of any missing bottles or barrels of Pappy. In fact, the bourbon barrels found at his property contained Wild Turkey, not Pappy.

Curtsinger was the only person involved in the heist to spend any time behind bars, despite the nine other people (his wife Julie included) who were indicted related to the theft. Some of his accomplices were members of his local recreational softball team, who were aware of the high regional demand for hard-to-access booze. Curtsinger, though he has denied being any kind of "ringleader," developed a local reputation for being a facilitator for high-end booze and steroids.