Rye Whiskey Review: Templeton Prohibition Era Whiskey Rye
One of the most delightful surprises that’s come about in the past few years is the American revival of micro-distilleries producing almost-forgotten home-based spirits. Home distilleries were common during the Prohibition era in the United States, and while most of these “micro-distillers” were producing bath-tub gin and moonshine, there were a few that were making what is still called “the good stuff”. One company that’s leading the “good stuff” revival is Templeton, whose rye whiskey is based on the original Prohibition era recipe developed by residents in a small Iowa town.
Right off the bat, Templeton Prohibition Era Whiskey Rye is worth a try just for its historical value; who doesn’t want a taste of what people were drinking during the U.S. ban on alcohol? However, although the novelty value is there, the product is much more than a one-trick pony. This is one rye whiskey with a depth and character that will knock your socks off it’s so good.
The history of Templeton Rye is very interesting. The residents of Templeton, Iowa, began to illegally make rye whisky in their incredibly small town of 350 residents. Before long, because their product was smooth and superior to everything else that was available, it became known as “the good stuff” and is said to have been Al Capone’s beverage of choice.
Templeton Rye continued to be made illegally even after Prohibition ended for die-hard, loyalist aficionados. Finally, in 2006, Templeton Rye became legally available eighty-five years after it first appeared.
But what really makes Templeton Prohibition Era Whiskey Rye “the good stuff”? Is it all marketing hype, or is there something to back up the claims?
It’s not just marketing hype. First of all, Templeton Rye is not mass-produced; it is only made in small batches in order to maintain high standards of production. Second of all, Templeton uses the original Kerkhoff family recipe – which consists of a 90% rye grain mash. Modern “rye” whiskies only need to have a 51% rye grain mash to be considered true rye whiskies. Thirdly, the rye used is locally grown or comes from the United States, Canada, or Europe, and only the highest quality grain gets selected to ensure the best flavor. An interesting side note is that 45% of the rye sent to Templeton gets rejected.
Surprisingly, the Templeton distillery doesn’t use the old-fashioned copper wash pot stills that some other micro-distillers seem to favor. The distillers at Templeton’s philosophy is that high quality ingredients are what matter most when it comes to making quality rye whiskey, and modern distillation technology works just fine.
The stout and round little bottle might make pouring difficult, but the visual effect is charming and it looks like a bottle old-timey products may have come in. The label is nicely done, and works as a good frame for the amber-colored liquid inside. Right off the bat, this looks like something interesting to drink.
This is where things start to get intriguing. The color alone might suggest a caramel note, but the aromas present are dry, grassy (think of freshly-cut lawn), and spicy, like a good quality garam masala or the spices used in a Christmas punch. This bouquet is unexpected, but very pleasant.
Here is where the expected caramel and toffee notes come in, along with hints of allspice and butterscotch. Everything combines together smoothly.
This is another important aspect that contributes a lot to the Templeton Rye experience. The body is a little bit “chewy”, but it goes well with the rich amber tones.
This can sort of be described as an “aftertaste”, and many lesser-quality spirits may taste nice up front but may leave a bitter, sour, or generally unpleasant lingering effect. The finish with Templeton is clean, smooth, and the balance has been described as optimal.
How to Drink Templeton Prohibition Era Whiskey Rye
As mentioned earlier, Templeton is “the good stuff”, and what you don’t want to do is drown this magnificent beverage in a run-of-the-mill soda, masking all of its gorgeous characteristics. Templeton Rye on the rocks is a favorite of rye connoisseurs, but another way to enjoy Templeton is in a cocktail specially formulated to highlight all of its subtleties.
One such cocktail is the Boulevardier, a pre-Prohibition favourite. Campari, a bitter apéritif combines well with the caramel and toffee aspects of Templeton Rye, and the vermouth adds just a hint of sweetness to balance everything. This is a cocktail that’s actually recommended by the Templeton Distillery.
1 cocktail glass
2 ounces Templeton Rye
¾ ounce Campari
¾ ounce sweet vermouth
Pour all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice and stir everything for about thirty seconds. Strain into the glass, and garnish with a slice of orange.
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