"The Good Stuff". It was good enough for Al Capone, and it's good enough for me!
Way out here in western Iowa is a piece of history that's pretty darn cool. Sure, we have Jesse James' train robbery, Bonnie and Clyde robbed a bank, John Wayne was born not too far away, but can you imagine a small town in rural Iowa turning "outlaw" and distilling whiskey? Ohhhh, but it's the truth. In 1920 Prohibition forbid the making and sale of alcoholic beverages. Templeton Rye was known to be the drink of choice of Al Capone, and if he didn't care about the law, well.......
What is rye whiskey? Well if you know anything about distilled spirits, they usually are made from grains. In Templeton Rye's case, the "mash" contains 90% rye grains, more than any other rye whiskey on the market and contributes to it's special flavors. The mash is a mixture of grain, malt and water, also contains a small amount of spent or used mash from a prior batch that contains some active yeasts. This mixture is fermented and distilled in a complicated process involved some pretty technical equipment these days. After distillation, Templeton is aged in charred oak barrels before bottling. A generation or so after Al Capone's era, the popularity of Templeton Rye waned, owners changed, and production began to slip. But eventually the Kerkhoff family became involved again and they were off to the races. Even today, the whiskey is made using the original recipe created by Merlyn Kerkhoff.
|An entire case of The Good Stuff|
Fun fact learned talking to Keith Kerkhoff from Templeton Rye: During barrel aging a small amount of volume is lost due to evaporation. This is called "the angels share."
|Barrel lid, indicating which barrel and batch. Bottles are labeled|
with barrel, batch and bottle number.
Ok, so back to Templeton. The distillery still remains in the Carroll County town. The distillery is open for tours twice daily, Monday through Friday. One Saturday a month, Keith conducts the tour himself. The tour includes the distillery, bottling room, the barrel area, and tasting area. Guests on the tour get to help label a few bottles and can sample Templeton Rye right there! Now that is my kind of tour!
A couple years ago in Iowa, Templeton Rye was extremely hard to find. Stores would be sold out before the bottles even hit the shelves. You literally had to know someone who worked in a liquor store to even stand a chance OR....... if you were lucky and lived out in the rural areas, like our Little Lake House, Templeton was easy to find. What's so special about rye whiskey? It's just..... different. If you are familiar with different types of whiskey you will notice the not-at-all subtle flavors in Templeton Rye. This is the whiskey you want to make a good classic whiskey cocktail like an Old Fashioned or a Manhattan. Modern mixologists are hard at work concocting new cocktails like The Gangster's Martini and the Shirley Templeton (see Templeton's website for recipes).
Next time you are visiting western Iowa, think about stopping at this unique piece of history.