Review: Templeton Rye Prohibition Era Whiskey

If they were drinking whiskey this good back in the Prohibition days, I don’t feel so bad for them after all.

A purported favorite of Al Capone and “the center of his bootlegging empire,” Templeton Rye is a killer whiskey that — if marketng is to be believed — has been being produced in small quantities ever since those dark days.

Now it’s rolling across the country in less small quantities, and if you’re lucky enough to find one, count your blessings and bust out your Visa card.

Templeton is less overtly spicy than many ryes, and I found it to have more of a Canadian whisky character to it (which is typically a blend of rye and other grain whiskeys). Reportedly aged for five years in charred oak (though no formal age statement is noted), this is a surprisingly deep brown whiskey for a rye.

The flavor profile is overwhelming, and in a good way. Starting with honeycomb and toffee, it soon reveals notes of buttermilk biscuits, shortbread, and even gingersnaps. Extremely easygoing, there’s virtually no heat on the finish at all, which is probably why I’m well into glass #3. A bit of dark chocolate plays on the finish, too.

What’s not to like? Pretty much nothing except it’s horrible lack of availability. The whiskey was available only in Iowa until 2007. Now it’s creeping across the country, city by city. Hope it comes officially to my neck of the woods — this is possibly the best rye I’ve ever sampled.

80 proof.

A / $40 / templetonrye.com [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS!]

templeton rye Review: Templeton Rye Prohibition Era Whiskey

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12 Responses to Review: Templeton Rye Prohibition Era Whiskey

  1. I ordered a bottle online from Binnys. I hope it’s not back-ordered.

  2. augustgarage

    Have you compared this to High West Rendezvous Whiskey? It is rumored that both bottlers may have sourced their whiskey from a former Seagram’s production facility in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, who shipped rye to Canada for blending.

    Both High West and Templeton started bottling before they started distilling (I’m not sure High West have actually started distilling yet) – so, marketing aside, the liquid in the bottle is not likely to have been produced in Iowa.

  3. Have yet to encounter High West.

  4. Received my bottle today. A few sips into my first glass, I’m impressed by how drinkable this is. Has a faint sweetness to it. You’re exactly right about there being virtually no heat on the finish.

  5. I’m not that acquainted with rye whiskey, so I can’t compare this to other brands. However, this is so balanced and has so much candy and caramel on the nose that it reminds me a little of one of the friendliest rums on the market, Angostura 1919.

  6. For my birthday, a friend gave me a bottle of Hudson Manhattan rye whiskey, pictured here:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/29/fashion/29shake.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

    It’s a bit pricey at $35 for 375 Ml, but the nose is even more concentrated than the Templeton Rye. Highly recommended.

  7. CincyCapell

    Overpriced for a whiskey that is only 80 proof, frankly. Is this indeed straight Rye, or is this a blended whiskey? Contrary to what your article suggests, Canadian blended whiskey only contains a very small portion of rye. The whiskey is then blended with pure grain alcohol (vodka, essentially.). This sounds like over-priced Canadian Club.

  8. CincyCapell – I think it’s a mistake to evaluate a whiskey based solely on its proof; for many distillers, they release the spirit at the proof where it shows the best. I love cask strength stuff too, but standard proof expressions can be just as engaging and complex. As for the portion of rye here’s what Templeton’s PR says: “I spoke with the president of TR (Scott Bush). As you probably know, by law a rye has to be at least 51% rye in the mash bill. TR is not 100% rye but are much higher than most ryes on the market. They do not share their exact mash bill.” — and as for Canadian’s rye content, you’re right; it’s not typically that high in rye (10-25% is common), but for many Canadian whiskys, the rye is the place where they get the bulk of their character.

  9. Sampled with with the sales rep this last weekend and bought a bottle. I believe he said the legal definition of Rye was 51%+ Rye, and they use about 90% Rye.

    As reported here, very nice, smooth…easily sippable. VERY nice.

    I’m in ChicagoLand, so it’s being distributed this far. I believe the rep said they were distributing it to Iowa and Illinois as of 11/2009. He mentioned something about ramping up production to support wider distribution…with a 5 year lead time, it will take awhile. Keep in mind they have only been in business since 2001.

    On a fun side note, the rep as well as the company elders are in the picture on the bottle.

  10. I had a small tasting party with templeton, overholt, saranac, rittenhouse (80 and 100 proof), russel’s and beam and the favorite was rittenhouse. Templeton, saran overholt and russel’s followed in order.

    It was ALL good, though… and by the end of the night was very good.

  11. Pingback: Templeton Rye

  12. to me, templeton rye smells overwhelmingly of caramelized bananas upon first whiff. it does go down a treat, though. our local costco has pallets of it for $32/bottle right now. makes a good manhattan, too.

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