Stealing Back 28 Bottles of Stolen Pappy Van Winkle

Franklin County Police, be warned: We’re coming for that contraband. And we’re bringing Hemi power.

byBen Keeshin|
Stealing Back 28 Bottles of Stolen Pappy Van Winkle

Twenty-eight bottles of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon, perhaps America’s finest spirit, are about to be destroyed by the Franklin County, Kentucky Sheriff’s Department that recovered the stash after a 2013 heist. Originally, the cops had planned to auction the 28 bottles of ultra-premium hooch, a fraction of the 68 cases stolen, but Van Winkle Clan objected. The Winkles, led by grandson of Pappy, Julian Van Winkle III, are concerned the band of whiskey-thieving, gun-toting varmints that stole the stuff might have contaminated it, and that tainted bourbon would taint the Van Winkle name. So, the 28 bottles of Pappy Van Winkle, with a market-value of $20,000, are set to be destroyed.

As lovers of classy booze, weird American families and intrigue, we object. This is not how the story must end! So we’ll take it. We’ll take it by any means necessary. In homage to the hooch-racing, rum-running, proto-NASCAR drivers that lent the Prohibition its 140-proof thrill, we’re going to bootleg that delicious cache back to Brooklyn. To do so, we’ll need a car or nine.

Fast, agile, capacious, salacious: here are our picks of the best cars in which to rumrun (bourbonbomb?) those 28 bottle of delectable Pappy Van Winkle to safety. And then, our bellies.

2016 Dodge Challenger SRT

Ever seen The Dukes of Hazzard? Those boys didn’t learn to drive at the DMV. Nope, those were rumrunning moves. To get the requisite tail-out slides and salacious burn-outs, a powerful, rear-drive coupe is best. The Challenger SRT-8 has a big old trunk and enough firepower to outrun even a Hemi-powered Charger cop cruiser. It’s the classic.

1997 Honda Civic Hatchback

Sometimes, anonymity is the order of the day. When police question bystanders, those folks are more likely to remember a Plum Crazy Challenger locked in oversteer than a dingy, late-model Civic zinging past. The Challenger driver will have more fun, but the Civic will get away.

This Prohibition-Era Boat

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In 1922, rumrunners used this nondescript craft named, in an act of extreme foresight, Penitentiary 1, for smuggling rum into the country. Though designed to draw little attention to itself, the boat could outrun Coast Guard boats if a chase ensued.

2015 Mercedes E63 AMG Wagon

Nothing defines “haste and space” like the most powerful station wagon in the world, Mercedes’ E63 AMG. Its metrics, 57.4 cubic feet and 577 horsepower, are staggering. Twenty-eight bottles might be too cakey a walk for such a beast: try 280 bottles, and the Benz would still probably get to 60 mph in under four seconds. In terms of getaways cars, this wagon’s hard to beat.

1976 Cadillac Eldorado

At some point, every ‘runner gets sick of running, tired of conducting business in secret. Why not go flamboyant? The shocking size and presence of a ‘76 Caddy is so ostentatious that the police would never suspect its driver of illicit activity. What kind of criminal waves a red flag while criminalizing? It’s, like, reverse psychology, man.

This Vicious Ford Fairlane NASCAR Racer

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No, there’s no way that this vintage racecar is street-legal. But, then again, isn’t a vehicle registration sticker the least of a hooch thief’s worries? Nothing looks meaner than a late-Sixties Fairline with a rollcage and fat tires over black steelies. In the business of the black market, menace is helpful.

This Fake Prohibition Era Taxi Truck

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Sure, this Twenties truck might not have the anonymity it did a century ago. Still, it’s a purpose-built machine: fake “Terminal Taxi” markings on the outside, rows of shelves on the interior. Hopefully, we wouldn’t be felled by a flat tire, as were the truck’s original operators.

2016 Cadillac CTS-V

The new CTS-V sticks to the same V8, rear drive formula as the Challenger, then adds what you really need: more horsepower. That is, 640 hp, or over three times as much as the other Caddy on this list. If you can handle the ferocity, no other sedan in the world can keep up.

2002 Dodge Ram SRT-10

If you’re willing to leave the Van Winkle to the open air, there’s no better truck that the Ram SRT-10, a bog-standard pick-up with an utterly-special Viper V-10. It’s scary fast, ultra-spacious and pretty hillbilly: perfect for a Kentucky-based, bourbon-hunting excursion.