Officials 'Abused' Power for Rare Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon
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Investigation Finds Oregon Government Officials ‘Abused Their Position for Personal Gain’ By Obtaining Rare Bourbons Including Pappy Van Winkle

Pappy Van Winkle

Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek speaks at the State Library of Oregon in Salem on Jan. 31, 2023. (AP Photo/Claire Rush)

On Wednesday, The Associated Press reported that the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission concluded an internal investigation. The investigation found that Executive Director Steve Marks and five other agency officials had “diverted” rare bourbons for their “personal use.” Among the bourbons in question was the highly sought-after Pappy Van Winkle 23 Year Old.

The investigation found that the officials were paying for the whiskey but used their “knowledge and connections” to obtain them. These whiskeys are typically extremely hard to find without spending thousands of dollars. This practice violated Oregon statutes, such as one that prohibits public officials from using confidential information for personal gain, according to The Associated Press.

“This behavior is wholly unacceptable,” Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek said Wednesday in a letter to the agency’s board of commissioners. “I will not tolerate wrongful violations of our government ethics laws.”

In her letter, Kotek asked the board to remove the implicated officials, who she said “abused their position for personal gain.”

When questioned, Marks denied that he had violated Oregon ethics laws and state policy. He did, however, admit to receiving preferential treatment “to some extent” in obtaining the whiskey due to his employment with the commission.

“This incident underlines the importance of having public accountability,” agency spokesperson Mark Pettinger said, per The Associated Press. “The OLCC will need to work on rebuilding and restoring our public trust … and adhere to Oregon’s ethics laws.”

Kotek asked Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum to “conduct an independent civil investigation into the extent of any wrongdoing and recommend stronger protocols for ensuring ethics laws are followed,” according to The Associated Press.

See what the experts think: Check out the top critic reviews of Pappy Van Winkle 23 Year Old

Rare bourbons, especially Van Winkles, are incredibly valuable. A bottle of Pappy 23 only retails for about $300. However, it is highly unusual to find rare bottles such as that one at retail price. These allocated bottles are snatched up by buyers as soon as they hit shelves and resell for exorbitant amounts of money.

In December, a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle 23 Year Old sold for $52,500 at auction. Two other Pappy 23 bottles sold for $47,500 at the same auction and a fourth for $40,000.

Marks and the other officials maintain they never resold the whiskeys they obtained.

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David Morrow is the Editor In Chief of Whiskey Raiders and has been with the company since September 2021. David has worked in journalism since 2015 and has had bylines at Sports Illustrated, Def Pen, the Des Moines Register and the Quad City Times. David holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Saint Louis University and a Master of Science in Journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. When he’s not tasting the newest exciting whiskey releases, David enjoys spending time with his wife and dog, watching sports and traveling.