By Richard Thomas
Templeton Rye is a brand under a cloud, the poster figure for the “deceptive whiskey” controversy that ran out of steam last year. This is because the brand was the clearest case of what was essentially a whiskey bottler pretending to be a working, commercial distillery, and selling their sourced product with a smokescreen of folksy tales.
This was best exemplified by the pair of stories Templeton told back in the day. For journalists and industry types, the company would always readily admit that the whiskey was sourced from MGP (then LDP) in Indiana, but the marketing and bottle labels made no mention of this, and instead focused on Prohibition era bootlegging.
That came to an end when a July 2014 article in The Daily Beast about whiskey sourcing went viral. With that, negative publicity went from the blogosphere and into the mainstream, and lawsuits started sprouting like mushrooms. Templeton Rye came clean about what it was doing, and in the process admitted something that few, if any, whiskey companies ever do: that they used flavoring additives as allowed by law, reportedly to make MGP’s 95% rye stock taste more like the real Prohibition era Templeton Rye, which was actually a rye and sugar moonshine.
This brings us to one reason as to why I am penning a brand new review of Templeton Rye, replacing our previous write up. A legitimate campaign of complaint is activist in nature, and attempts to achieve a specific goal. If that goal is achieved, in this case getting Templeton Rye to clean up its act, that should be acknowledged. Be skeptical if you want, sure, but also be fair. If one isn’t fair about these things, it defeats the whole point of agitating for a change in the first place, and one sinks to merely croaking for its own sake.
Bottled at 80 proof, the whiskey has a deep orange appearance in the glass, typical of a reasonably aged rye (averaging four years, in fact). The nose has a sweet character, where vanilla mingles with cinnamon red hots over a base of banana, and a current of cedar wood runs throughout.
The flavor follows from there. It’s balanced in its sweet and spicy side, and that woody current that is more cedar than oak runs throughout, now with a minty tinge to it that compliments the spicy rye side nicely. It’s easy to see how, despite all the accusations, this product managed to secure itself a solid niche in the market.
A bottle of Templeton Rye usually goes for about $40 in the States, but in many instances goes for $35 and sometimes less.