I, From Experience, Know Exactly What’ll Happen to the Condemned Pappy Van Winkle

Malcolm Freberg
(Photo: OBSEV / Pappy Van Winkle)

It was my third arrest, so I knew what to expect, but couldn’t wrap my head around why it was happening.

I was driving on New Hampshire’s I-93 from Boston to Hanover with a college buddy of mine. Before we’d left Mass, he’d bought a case of Bud Heavy in a misguided attempt at manliness. He was 21; I was 20.

We were pulled over no more than 5 miles from our destination. I’d been doing 16 over on the freeway, which is exactly 1 mph over what you get away with 99% of the time (take note, teenagers). I gave the sheriff my license and registration, he disappeared for 15 minutes, then returned with a ticket and a question: “Do you boys have any alcohol in the car?”

Assuming he was looking for open containers, I answered truthfully and told him about the still-sealed beer in the trunk that my 21-year-old friend purchased. He, in turn, told me that it was illegal to even be driving with alcohol in the Granite State, closed or otherwise, if you’re below the legal drinking age. Which meant I'd just won a very expensive trip to the police station for processing.

Like I said, it was the third time in as many years I’d been picked up for alcohol-related incidents, and I hadn’t even had a sip. I knew I wasn’t in serious trouble—just days later, the charge was lowered to a standard speeding ticket—so the mood was unusually light for an arrest. My friend and I became friendly with the officer, talking about family, football, and the Transformers movies, all while riding in the back of his cruiser to the station.

Eventually, a more pressing matter occurred to us. “What’s going to happen to that beer?” my friend asked. The officer didn’t hesitate: “We’re required to destroy it.”

I, given our rapport and knowing this was a safe space, replied, “Y’all are going to drink it, aren’t you?!”

Again, without hesitation: “You bet your ass we are.”


Boston Magazine
ICYMI, Kentucky law enforcement recovered several cases of stolen Pappy Van Winkle last April, one of the rarest and most sought-after whiskeys in the world. The drinking world rejoiced—imagine recovering a stolen Picasso, Hemingway’s forgotten journals, Rowena Ravenclaw’s lost diadem. This was like that, for alcoholics.

What’s more, Franklin Country sheriff Pat Melton announced that the un-lost Pappy would be auctioned off for charity. Those bottles would come back into circulation, all for a good cause. Win-win, right?


Today, just a week after the initial auction announcement, Sheriff Melton subtweeted the world a “NVM LOL ;)," saying that the Pappy couldn’t be sold at all. The idea was shot down by Julian Van Winkle III, owner of the Pappy distillery, who was concerned that the bottles could have been tampered with. Instead, the bottles will have to be "destroyed."

Which means, somewhere in Kentucky, deep in the woods behind a rundown jailhouse, there is going to be one hell of a classy cop party.

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