Templeton Rye has been with us since the dawn of the “non-distillery producer” — and the backlash that came along with them. (We first reviewed Templeton way back in 2009, none the wiser and well before people were talking about NDPs in earnest.)
Templeton had a lot of street cred when it first launched and it quickly became both the whipping boy and public face for NDPs — paying $2.5 million in settlements after a class action lawsuit. But despite the industry outcries against unclear labeling and made-up backstories, Templeton has been and remains a survivor in the business — and it’s paved the way for literally hundreds of producers to follow in its footsteps, the vast majority of which source their whiskeys from MGP in Indiana, just as Templeton still does today. (For what it’s worth, it still bottles its whiskey in Iowa.)
Templeton says it’s still distilling its own stuff, but it has yet to hit the market. To make its releases its own, it’s been said that it adds a small amount of flavoring to its 4 and 6 year old bottlings — which are marketed as just rye, not straight rye — although you’ll notice the 10 year old single barrel release is indeed a straight rye, so not adulterated. Templeton has been fairly quiet on this issue for well over a decade — it explained itself, sort of, in a now-deleted web page in the mid-2010s — and you won’t find any new info about their secret sauce here.
Over the years, Templeton has launched special editions and line extensions — and recently it finally undertook a full redesign of its core lineup, with new bottles and labels for all three of its primary offerings. All three remain MGP rye — 95% rye, 5% corn — and each variously carries a 4, 6, or 10 year old age statement. How are they faring as of 2022? Let’s dive in to fresh bottles of each.
Templeton Rye 4 Years Old – Last review 2009. There’s definitely a curious character here with a nose that evokes dried apples, cinnamon, and chocolate, plus some brown sugar-laden sweetness. Very soft and sweet on the palate, the whiskey evokes notes of Apple Jacks cereal, butterscotch, and toffee, all doused in sugar syrup. Silky and seductive, it’s decidedly easy to drink, though the juicy, over-sweetened experience feels increasingly “doctored” the more you sip on it. Looking back at my tasting notes from 13 years ago, it feels like moderate alterations may have been made in the intervening years, but probably not many. (I’d chalk many of those comments up to general immaturity now.) I agree with my earlier assessment of how drinkable this is — but its complexity is virtually nonexistent, making it fairly useless in the broader rye category. 80 proof. B / $35 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS] [BUY IT NOW FROM THE WHISKY EXCHANGE]
Templeton Rye 6 Years Old – Last review 2016. At a significantly higher proof — and two more years of age — you would think Templeton would cut a much different experience. The nose says otherwise, again showcasing a highly sweetened character dominated by apple cinnamon and milk chocolate, with a stronger vanilla component — if only slightly. The palate has the added warmth of the extra 5%-and-change abv, but it makes less of an impact than you’d think, adding some texture and lightly dulling the sweetness, but otherwise remaining on message: apples (and lots of them), cinnamon, chocolate, vanilla. In that order. Brown sugar on top of everything. I get absolutely none of the bitter, rubbery notes I encountered back in 2016, but that hasn’t really changed my overall impression of the spirit. Aside from the change in heat, this is only the barest departure from the 4 year old. 91.5 proof. B / $45 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS] [BUY IT NOW FROM THE WHISKY EXCHANGE]
Templeton Straight Rye Single Barrel 10 Years Old – Last review 2017. Barrel number is provided on the neck of each bottle. This is clearly a different animal, namely in that it smells a lot more like rye: woody, savory, and punchy with notes of ground pepper and a heavier clove character. The palate offers a similar character, though there’s a gentle sweetness amidst its brisk complement of toasted grains, showing notes of butterscotch and toffee. The higher proof gives the whiskey some gravitas and a little peppery heat, allowing the finish to perk up and show some much-needed baking spice notes. A bit dusty as it fades away, the experience returns to a more savory, woodshop-driven character with a pepper note that’s more black than red. Either way, it’s a far different whiskey than its younger siblings, almost certainly due to the lack of flavoring agents in the mix. 104 proof. Reviewed: Barrel #2763. B+ / $80 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS] [BUY IT NOW FROM TOTAL WINE]