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Templeton Small Batch Rye Whiskey (750ml)
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- ABV 40%
Templeton Rye refers to rye whiskey originally made in Templeton, Iowa during the prohibition era as a way for farmers in the Carroll County area to supplement their income. There's an interesting background for whisky lovers to enjoy here, as described in selected excerpts from an article titled "Templeton Rye," which was written by Lam Schwaller, c 1981.
"In 1920, Templeton, like the rest of the nation, was trying to recover from the effects of World War I. This is the year, according to seasoned opinions, that bootlegging, Templeton Style, began to appear. Early products were made from corn, but shortly thereafter, the famous rye whiskey was commonly produced. As the 20’s progressed, more people became involved in the illegal process until it reached its peak in 1930-1931. Local residents had large families or mortgage payments to be made and many saw this as a means of survival.
The going price for a gallon of Templeton Rye was about $5.25 to $5.50. The product, perhaps initially made for local consumption, was of the highest caliber. Many out-of-town buyers asked for some of the "special" stuff and paid a premium for it. As the reputation grew, the demand increased, until at one time, as many as three truckloads of kegs left Templeton in one week, destined for Des Moines, Denver and Chicago.
Many legends and rumors have surfaced over the years concerning Templeton Rye. Al Capone, notorious gang leader in Chicago, is said to have been involved in our story. The evidence then and now still indicates that he was never more than a paying customer.
All of this would have been very exciting and very profitable, except for one problem, the Federal agents. They did their best to enforce the law and especially so in Templeton. The local booze runners did all they could to avoid being caught. After a while, the Federal men and some of the hard to catch bootleggers knew each other and almost mutual respect developed, with the agents vowing to get them "the next time."
A few people feel that the Templeton Rye era is a skeleton in our municipal closet and should not be exploited. However, many feel it is a prominent part of our history and heritage and should be presented. It is, perhaps, the most notable thing we have done in Templeton and the one thing that sets us apart. We could have all been bank robbers, you know, or worse!"
Fast forward more than eighty-five years, the infamous small batch rye whiskey has finally returned – made 'legal' for the first time ever in 2006.
This is an unusual rye, no doubt partly due to the very particular production process. To begin with, the distillery utilizes an original Kerkhoff family recipe – unique for the remarkably high rye content of its mash. For a rye to be classified as such, only 51 percent of the mash bill must be rye grain. Templeton uses more than 90 percent rye (and malted barley for the remainder). The company are particularly staunch in grain selection and typically reject around 50% of samples. A proprietary yeast strain is employed to kick start the ferment. They forego the copper wash pot stills used by the original distillers. Instead double distillation takes place in a short column still after which it's then put through a doubler kettle/pot still. Because of the column distillation, there are no heads or tails cuts needed. They simply allow the stills to take the flavour profile from the fermenter. All distillate lots are given a quality rating of 1 to 4. Lots deemed of poor quality are redistilled into grain neutral spirits (vodka). Finally, maturation takes place in new American white oak barrels sourced from Missouri. These are charred for 55-60 seconds for a #3 level char. Iowa lies in the humid continental zone and generally has hot summers, cold winters and wet springs – with an average relative humidity of 72 percent - ideal conditions for whisky maturation. 15-20 barrels are bottled at a time, taken from various heights in the rick house, to ensure a consistency from bottle to bottle.
Tasting note: [From a 20ml sample] Pale gold colour. Opens with a mild shellac followed by unexpected scents of dill, caraway and mustard. A fascinating rye aroma that would be more at home in Denmark than Iowa. Aeration reveals more complexity with dry wood / pencil shavings emerging over a sweeter vanillan undercurrent. Early sweetness on entry is beautifully counterpointed by drying, mildly peppery rye. Concludes bone dry, biscuity, rye bread like with excellent length. Very dry, very elegant sipping rye that surprises from start to finish. 40% Alc./Vol.