Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Templeton Distillery. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
I’ve always appreciated brands with an interesting backstory. The Templeton Distillery certainly has one.
The area around Templeton, Iowa, was supposedly a hotbed of illicit rye whiskey during the Prohibition years. Legend has it that gangster Al Capone was a fan of the Iowa hooch, which led to a 2011 documentary film called, “Capone’s Whiskey: The Story of Templeton Rye.”
In more recent years, the brand found itself in a bit of hot water for a different kind of rulebreaking: unclear or misleading labels. After settling class-action lawsuits, Templeton agreed to start labeling its whiskies as made in Indiana – since it was sourcing its ryes from Indiana-based MGP Ingredients – and remove words like “Prohibition-era recipe,” as it’s arguable whether there was a single Templeton mash bill or process back in the 1920s.
Things should change again starting in the next couple of years, when Templeton is scheduled to begin bottling whiskies from its sparking, new distillery operation in Iowa.
In the meantime, the 2021 releases still feature MGP ryes. The company buys aged MGP whiskey and blends it with flavoring to achieve a profile the distillery believes is similar to the Prohibition-era Iowa ryes. It’s then cut with distilled water and bottled in Templeton, Iowa.
Using a base of MGP rye isn’t necessarily a bad thing, regardless. MGP, one of the biggest providers of sourced whiskey in the industry, makes a mean rye that I generally like better than their bourbons.
Tasting notes: Templeton Rye Aged 4 Years
Vital stats: Mash bill of 95% rye and 5% barley; 40% alcohol by volume/80 proof; $30 for a 750ml bottle. Templeton, Iowa.
Appearance: Tawny color, watery legs.
Nose: Rye spiciness comes through, but so does a sugary sweetness. Hot Tamales candies and pecan pie came to my mind – an admittedly strange combination.
Palate: This is a nice whiskey for people who don’t drink a lot of whiskey. That sounds like a putdown, but it’s not, really. If you know someone who doesn’t like the burn of many whiskies, pour this one for them. The Templeton 4 Year is light and easy up front. I taste mint, honey and something alkaline. My bigger issue is that it doesn’t do much from there. The finish is short and relatively non-descript.
This is a perfectly acceptable rye at a reasonable price, both of which are marks in its favor. Its lack of complexity and fast-fade finish, though, will relegate it for the most part to being a cocktail mixer on my bar.
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Scott Bernard Nelson
Scott Bernard Nelson is a writer, actor and whiskey reviewer in Portland, Ore. When he's not working, you can often find him fly fishing or rock climbing in the Pacific Northwest.