The owner of a Hardin County liquor store said he thought it was a joke when his store’s manager called him Sunday and said a man had offered to sell them a large amount of Pappy Van Winkle — just days after the news broke that 204 bottles of the rare bourbon was stolen.
“I’m a little pessimistic,” said Eric Hall, owner of Packages & More Liquors in Elizabethtown. “I said there’s no way — it’s been all over the press — there’s no way a guy came in like that.”
But it turned out to be true, Hall said.
Hall told The State Journal over the phone that the unknown man came in Sunday afternoon and waited until the store’s manager, Ben Beach, was finished with another customer.
Hall said the man then asked Beach if they sold Pappy Van Winkle. When Beach told them they didn’t have any in stock, he allegedly offered to sell them what he had — which he described as a lot.
Beach told the man that they had to buy liquor from licensed distributors, Hall said. That’s when he said the man “clammed up” and left.
“It might have lasted 30 seconds,” Hall said. “He did the right thing company-wise.”
Hall said customers have been coming into his store and talking about the Pappy-heist ever since Buffalo Trace reported that more than $26,000 worth was taken in an apparent inside job.
Reported stolen were 65 cases — with three bottles per case — of Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 20 Year bourbon and nine bottles of Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye.
Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 20 Year bourbon is worth about $130 a bottle. Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye is aged for 13 years and is worth about $25 a bottle.
Franklin County Sheriff Pat Melton said the bourbon was stolen over the last couple of months and about 50 employees had access to it.
Hall said Beach promptly contacted authorities.
The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office released the surveillance video Wednesday, calling the man a “person of interest” in the case.
In the video, a man appears to pull up to the store in a Ford F-150 truck that is green with tan trim. He also appears to be wearing a purple Bardstown High School sweatshirt.
Melton has never released the name of the liquor store.
Hall said he doesn’t know if the man in the video is actually the thief, someone who bought the bourbon from the thief or even an innocent bourbon collector.
He said Melton explained that criminals don’t always act rationally, but Hall said he can’t imagine anyone who would walk into a liquor store and offer to sell highly publicized, stolen goods.
“Even the dumbest of criminals wouldn’t risk something like that,” Hall said.
He said he hopes their surveillance video will help authorities with the case.