Whiskey Review: Templeton Rye Special Reserve 10-Year-Old - The Whiskey Wash

Whiskey Review: Templeton Rye Special Reserve 10-Year-Old

Templeton Rye Special Reserve

image via Katelyn Best/The Whiskey Wash

Templeton Rye, the non-distilling producer whose most famous product to date may well have been a 2015 class-action lawsuit, has a new addition to their line up: Templeton Rye Special Reserve 10-Year-Old.

Some background, for those not in the know: Templeton is an Iowa-based brand co-founded by the son and grandson of Alphons Kerkhoff, a Prohibition-era bootlegger. Kerkhoff and the other bootleggers of Templeton, Iowa, were apparently famous for their rye whiskey, so much that Al Capone preferred it for his personal consumption over the Canadian whiskey he hawked to the thirsty masses.

Templeton Rye bills itself as the heir to that bootlegging legacy, but there’s a catch: It’s not a distillery quite yet, though it in the process of building one. There’s nothing inherently wrong with NDPs, but Templeton, in the beginning, wasn’t clear about that status, labeling their whiskey “small-batch,” and “made in Iowa,” and even posting a picture of “their still” on an early website.

In 2015, they settled three lawsuits, entitling anyone who’d purchased a bottle to a refund. Following those suits, Templeton modified their labels, replacing “small batch” with the more nebulous yet better-branded phrase “The Good Stuff” and adding “distilled in Indiana” to the back label.

So: Special Reserve is a 10-year-old expression commemorating the 10 embattled years of Templeton’s existence. There’s no information out there about what exactly is in it, but their standard expression is made from a 95% rye, 5% malt mash, just like many of the other sourced MGP rye whiskeys out there. It’s bottled at 101 proof. It comes in a very nice wooden box, complete with the most elaborate latch I’ve ever seen put to such a use.

Tasting Notes: Templeton Rye Special Reserve

Appearance: Deep copper

Nose: Loads of sweet, juicy red fruit opens the nose. Cooked blueberries, cranberry sauce, cherry pie filling. The spice element is there, too—add a cinnamon stick to the cranberries. A dash of vanilla and some old cardboard (oof) tie things together.

Palate: Also quite fruity, and a notch brighter than the nose, more like fresh cherries than cooked ones. At the mid-palate, warm spice is the predominant character. At the back, a strong, dusty wood note comes in, and as I keep sipping, wood is the main thing I taste.

Final Thoughts and Score:


On the nose, Templeton Rye Special Reserve bursts invitingly with tasty fruit notes, and the palate is quite approachable: The spice here is the baking spice kind, not the peppery hot kind. That pervasive woody undertone, though, dulls everything down disappointingly.

I try to make a habit of not reading anything about a whiskey until after I’ve tasted it. After I sampled this one, I took a look at our November post announcing its release, and I could only laugh. On one hand, this is not a $150 whiskey. On the other, of course it’s a $150 whiskey. You don’t put a latch like that on a commemorative wooden box that has anything cheaper in it.

This rye is a fine whiskey for everyday drinking or mixing, but at that price point, I’d expect a lot more.