The theft of some of the most sought-after bourbon in the world — the legendary Pappy Van Winkle — from the Buffalo Trace distillery back in 2013 made international news, with the investigation into the robbery known in the industry as “Pappygate.” Now a new docu-series from Netflix, “Heist,” explores the infamous incident in more detail.
Slated for debut on July 14, the six-episode series will feature the story in the fifth and sixth episodes, titled “The Bourbon King,” featuring the former sheriff of Franklin County and, for the first time on camera, the bandit that pled guilty to the crime.
Pappy Van Winkle is the ultimate unicorn bottle for bourbon-lovers and considered a bucket list experience for true connoisseurs. While suggested retail prices are relatively low ($70-$300), those wishing to purchase one today will be fortunate to find Pappy within a multiple of 10 of that amount. Extremely limited production combined with insatiable demand has created a situation where prices of the ultra-premium 23 Year routinely reach $5,000 a bottle.
With numbers that compelling, a Buffalo Trace dock worker named Gilbert “Toby” Curtsinger, with 26 years at the firm, decided to take matters into his own hands. As a trusted employee with access to the rare inventory, Curtsinger used his insider status to pilfer high-priced bottles.
In 2013, the distillery reported to police that more than 65 cases of Pappy Van Winkle Reserve were stolen from the Buffalo Trace Distillery. After a $10,000 reward was offered for information leading to an arrest, an anonymous tipster led authorities to Curtsinger’s home. Along with 25 bottles of missing Pappy, detectives discovered approximately 18 barrels of Buffalo Trace and Wild Turkey whiskey during the search of the residence.
The investigation netted 10 total indictments, but the only participant to see any jail time was Curtsinger. Sentenced to 15 years in prison for the crime, the ringleader served only 30 days before being released as part of a “shock probation” program.
With Curtsinger telling his side of the story in the documentary, bourbon aficionados and true-crime fans have something to look forward to with the release of Heist this July.