If You See a $20 Bottle of Pappy Van Winkle, It Might Just Be a Scam

As whiskey scams go, this one was especially brazen

Pappy Van Winkle bottles
There are bargains to be found for rare bourbon — but scams are also out there.
Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Finding great deals and rare bargains is something the internet can be tremendously good at. Unfortunately, the internet is also very good at pointing people in the direction of scams, and the line between “good lord, what a deal!” and “wait, where’s my stuff — and my money?” can be very thin. And that’s what takes us, yet again, to the world of whiskey scams.

The latest entry in the whiskey scam hall of fame (or hall of shame, depending on your perspective) involves Pappy Van Winkle — the eminently popular, very rare bourbon that can sell for thousands of dollars. This led a few bourbon fans to become overjoyed when they came across what seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime bargain: bottles of Pappy Van Winkle selling for the price of a bottle of Evan Williams.

As Olivia White reports for VinePair, the controversy began when some bourbon fans came across an ad on social media for a company called Whiskey Shack. The company purported to be selling rare bottles of spirits at cost; given that bottles of Pappy Van Winkle were advertised for around one percent of what the genuine article might cost, one might call it the deal of a lifetime. That is, if the sales were genuine. Which — well, you can probably see where this is going.

Whiskey collector Ken Mueller told WDBR about his encounter with the scam. “It looked spectacular and it was a little beverage store in southern Indiana who was going out of business, and they had a lot of dusty bottles and stuff that they were getting rid of at cost — or just under cost — just to settle tax liens,” he told the station.

Inside the Strange World of Whiskey Scams
A growing and alarming phenomenon

What actually happened to the bourbon orders various Whiskey Shack customers placed? According to WDBR’s investigation, several packages showed up as having been delivered to the wrong address. “[A] Pappy was only $20 to $30, which should have set off the flags right there,” Mueller recalled in comments made to the station — which makes for a good rule of thumb: as the saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.


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