Oh man. Every time I write one of these take-down pieces about some repackaged LDI/MGP whiskey with a BS story I think, “Surely that was the last one? There can’t be MORE of these can there?” And then I look like an idiot, and then I find myself writing another one and thinking the same thing. Ad nauseum. At least I saved myself $10 and bought the half-sized bottle this time. Have I ranted recently about the serious lack of sample-sized spirits in this market?
Templeton rye, “made” in the town of Templeton, Iowa, is purportedly based on a Prohibition-era recipe by Alphons Kerkhoff, a local distiller of rye in the early 1900s. Historic rye from the town of Templeton (which would have been made by numerous farmers in the area, not just one) was, again purportedly, a favorite of Chicago gangster Al Capone. Of course today’s Templeton whiskey is not actually based on any antique recipe, it’s just four year-old 95% rye mash-bill bulk rye from LDI/MGP in Indiana, which has been proofed down and bottled using local Iowa water. I guess adding water to something now qualifies as “making it”. Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks this kind of marketing in the American whiskey business is getting out of hand: Templeton was sued over their misleading marketing practices in 2014 and paid out refunds to some customers. I notice that references to Al Capone have vanished from their website, and that they now prominently discuss the actual origins of their whiskey.
Like many of these “craft” re-bottlers of MGP product, Templeton has funded, built, and opened a new distillery to begin producing (for real!) its own whiskey. Expect to see the first batch of own-distilled Templeton 4 year-old rye in 2022.
Templeton is not, by far, the only “producer” to pass off MGP whiskey as their own. They share this distinction with Redemption Rye, Bulleit Rye, Willet Rye (until they started releasing whisky from their new KBD plant), High West (at least they blend it skillfully), George Dickel Rye, Angel’s Envy Rye (at least they finish it in rum barrels), and a host of other small-time brands that have not come clean about their origins.
Update: Apparently it gets worse. As pointed out by reader Dave from Brolic Whisky, Templeton has admitted to adding (legally) flavor additives of unknown specifications to their whiskey, in an attempt to match flavor compounds in the original recipe (which was either 100% rye or 75% cane sugar, depending on who you ask). Because the rye is not labelled “Straight”, producers like Templeton are legally allowed to add up to 2.5% by volume of flavorings or other additives without disclosing this on the label. Read more here and here.
Nose: Subdued. Nutty, with a soft nougat/caramel initial note. Not a lot of rye spices, but also no grassy/piney notes. Just somewhat sweet and somewhat oaky.
Palate: Soft, almost syrupy body. A repeat of the nutty nougat and sweet caramel notes. Very low tongue burn. And… that’s it.
Finish: Medium length. A one-trick pony, it appears. The same two notes continue through the finish. At least it’s consistent. Fades slowly with a hint of menthol.
With Water: A few drops of water wake up a slight nose tickle but with no added aroma notes. The palate seems watered-down by even a few drops. The finish is a little livelier and introduces a bit of lemon zest. Water optional, and not really recommended due to its effect on the palate.
Overall: I wouldn’t have thought a whiskey distantly associated with a made-up story about Al Capone would be such a snooze. On one hand, it’s easy-drinking to a fault and pleasantly sweet and consistent all the way through. On the other hand, there’s very little going on here. This is especially odd for a rye, a grain known for eccentricity. It’s also essentially the same thing as Redemption Rye, but 6% less potent and 20% more expensive. And I don’t recommend that one either. Just get Hochstadter’s or Rittenhouse 100.
If you have access to it, try to get ahold of a Wilderness Trail barrel proof rye. 4yrs old, NOT MGP, certainly not 1 note and a good, legit and interesting story. The rye, at least the bottle I have, is outstanding especially after a few drops of water. Perhaps you might enjoy it. Cheers.
+1 on Wilderness Trail Rye. Their bottled-in-bond wheated bourbon is delicious, too. Wilderness Trail, Willett (rye and bourbon, all Straight!) and Corsair (Triple Smoke Single Barrel, oh my!) have been helping me believe that craft whiskey can be more than a very expensive fancy bottle.
OTOH, I never bothered with Templeton because of the 80 proof, meh” reviews like yours, the BS story & flavorings didn’t help, and they used to not include the distilling state on the bottle (IIRC). There’s so much good honest whiskey on the shelves, I don’t even bother with the cash-grab NDP “distilleries” unless a fine reviewer like yourself says the product is remarkable and worth the price.
You’re like the Chad Polenz of the whisk(e)y world