Get Gephardt Investigates: Why the DABC kept the release of a bourbon as quiet as possible

Pappy Van Winkle on the shelves of a Utah bar

(KUTV) Bourbon connoisseur Brandon Peay says he’s been stalking one bourbon all year - a bourbon called Pappy Van Winkle.

“I was really kind of tracking things as I could this year,” he said.

He did what anybody trying to find a liquor in a liquor store might: He called the Department of Alcohol and Beverage Control asking to be notified and he frequently checked back on its website where booze orders are listed.

Even with all that work, this year's annual shipment was gone before Brandon even became aware it had come in.

Pappy is special in sort of a cult-like way. It became super popular a few years ago after some celebrity chefs and magazines started talking about it. The Kentucky-based distiller also keeps the booze in high demand by only releasing a few thousand bottles a year.

State records show that, in 2017, Utah only got 237 bottles and only half of those, 120 ever hit store shelves. The rest went to bars and restaurants.

As Get Gephardt dug deeper, we learned the people in charge of selling booze went out of their way to keep the release of Pappy as secret as possible.

“Only seven employees knew that the Pappy Van Winkle had come in and where it was going a few days in advance,” said DABC spokesperson Terry Wood.

Ironically, keeping the Pappy release secret was an effort help people like Brandon, Wood says.

The DABC has had trouble in the past with warehouse workers seeing the shipment come in and tipping off their buddies - or even themselves – creating an unfair advantage.

So, the DABC, the organization with the responsibility of getting alcohol into the hands of consumers, made the conscious decision to keep its release information quiet this year.

Still, Wood says the DABC publicized some information. When the shipment was ordered and came in, it was all posted on the DABC website, as is required by state law.

“We try to make it as fair as possible,” Wood said.

Pappy was sold on a first-come, first-serve basis to those who caught the quick-release of that information and showed up to buy a bottle.

Brandon says the process doesn’t feel fair to him.

“I should have the same advantage that everybody else does and I clearly didn't this year,” he said.

Wood says the DABC is currently talking about how to handle the Pappy release this year and in future years. One option being discussed is a lottery system that would allow everyone interested to register and then winning names would be drawn at random.

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