Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Tragedy Avoided

The case of the missing barrels has been solved and the world breathes a sigh of relief
Bourbon was disappearing from Kentucky distilleries. Not evaporating, which happens during the aging process. Actual, unexplainable, disappearance. Would the world soon run out of bourbon?

It was a nightmare for the distillers, who noticed that some of their priciest barrels were being tapped. There was no evidence of leaking, no pools of expensive bourbon puddling on the floor. In the shipping department there were no broken bottles or packing cases soaked with runaway bourbon. With the pilfering, of course, went some profit, because that stolen alcohol was not available for bottling and sale. What was not for sale was therefore not taxed, either, and the government was losing out on the theft as well.

You have your moonshiners in Kentucky, as well as surrounding areas that are home to the descendants of the Ulster Plantation who left Ireland to make a new life in America. They have their own mindset when it comes to the law, so when there is a chance to avoid paying a tax, there are participants on both sides of the equation.

Several people who worked at the affected distilleries were recently charged with stealing bottles of bourbon and then selling them on the black market. All the profit went into their pocket, with no expense. The scheme ran for a few years, providing some extra income for those stupid enough to think they could lift a few cases and never be noticed.

Sooner or later, someone is going to keep an eye on the warehouse to watch what comes in and goes out. When someone goes out with something they aren't supposed to be taking, well, that's how thieves usually get caught.

Gilbert Curtsinger, bourbon specialist
Gilbert Curtsinger worked at the Buffalo Trace distillery, where the brand enjoyed such a surge of popularity that it was rationed for a time. Short supplies tend to lead to higher prices, we've been told, and at some point Mr. Curtsinger realized that he could be benefiting from that delightful aspect of supply-side economics.

Someone tipped off authorities, who found several barrels of ill-gotten gains in Mr. Curtsinger's home. Sure there's no honor among thieves. All it takes is one cohort getting greedy and the whole scheme is blown up.

By taking the costlier product, Mr. Curtsinger worked his way into a more serious charge because the value of the stolen goods will dictate the severity of the crime. A six-figure theft will hurt more than the taking of a bottle or two. On top of the stealing, however, is the tax evasion business because he failed to collect and deposit all the different levies placed on demon alcohol. You could say he's got more than enough troubles.

The bourbon theft ring has been rumbled and the supply of bourbon is once again safe.

A tragedy of epic proportions has been avoided, and just in time. The Kentucky Derby could not be run without the requisite mint juleps, and you can't make mint juleps without bourbon.

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