Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Templeton Rye

How did I come about owning not one but two bottles of Al Copone's whiskey of choice? How did I get a two bottles that were the center of a bootlegging empire? Legend has it that even after Copone was sent to Alcatraz, a few bottles of this stuff made its way to prisoner AZ-85. How did I score two bottles of what was then known as the "Good Stuff" because of its smooth finish when they stopped producing it shortly after the demise of prohibition? Good questions all.

Two men, both of whose ancestors were involved in the original Templeton Rye decided to bring the spirit back to life and after obtaining the original recipe and a distillery here in Iowa, bottled up their first batch of 68 barrels in 2006. I can't find out what happened to those 68 barrels or if they were even sold but what I do know was that the "Good Stuff" was so good and in such demand, that they ramped up production and in 2010, the first batch of 3000 cases came online. Despite my best efforts, I was unable to score a bottle.

Perhaps I should first elaborate on why it is so hard to score a bottle of Templeton Rye here in Iowa. Although the distillery obtained legal licensing to sell it on location in Templeton, Iowa, they have for now declined until customers all over the state are satisfied. Instead by state law, they must sell their product directly to the state where it is then sold and distributed by the state to private distributors. They state believes in equal opportunity and thus, with only 3000 cases and probably ten times that number of distributors, most places didn't even get more than a few bottles. All those same places with whom I checked, were lucky to get a case and had hundreds of people on the waiting list. Still with 80% of all they whiskey sold here in Iowa and the remainder in New York City, San Francisco and the state of Illinois, my best odds of getting it remained close to home and as my grandfather would say, those odds were slim to none.

So I bid my time and waited for the 2011 allocation, which actually runs from December 1, 2010 to December 1, 2011 and has been called batch number four. Batch number four is comprised of 20,000 cases which according to recent census figures means that there was one case for every 150 people here in our state to fight over.  Not good odds but certainly better but the difference being this time I had a game plan. I went back to my roots.

I grew up in one of the most rural parts of this state where we are the only county in Iowa without a stoplight or a fast food restaurant. We have one grocery store and it is a twenty mile drive to get to it. But they sell spirits and I know the owner and so shortly after Batch 4 was transferred into state's custody, I asked the owner of the store back home if he would request for a case of Templeton Rye. He had never heard of it but promised just the same to try and get me a case on my promise that I would buy the whole thing if he couldn't get it sold. I figured with 20,000 cases and at least five times that many stores asking for it that it was still a shot in the dark and I had pretty much forgotten about it until January 7th when the brother of the store owner told me that my whiskey had arrived.

I hadn't asked him how many bottles were in a case which probably I should have since I had promised to buy the whole case if he couldn't sell them. When he told me six I was somewhat relieved but still felt I should help find buyers just in case. I asked the first person I saw whom I thought might be interested and they said they weren't but gave me the names of three other people who were. Five minutes later, I had two of the bottles and the other four were also sold. There were four happy customers and one store owner who said he wished he had ordered several more cases.

So I decided to try bottle 248 from barrel 83 and set aside bottle 273 from barrel 80 for the time being. I've seen bottles of Batch 4 on Ebay going for twice what I paid for it so perhaps it might be an investment. Of course I'm referring to an investment into my future self as I sip it by a nice roaring fire and watch it snow outside. By the way, it is real smooth going down with a kick on the back nine. It is now my favorite domestic whiskey.


edifice rex said...

Now, being a Southerner, I generally prefer Bourbon or Scotch but I believe I'd like to try some of that! Congrats on scoring some!

sage said...

You got me interested now... There is a bar/restaurant on the top floor of a high rise hotel in Louisville, that looks up and down the river. But the main draw is that the bar boast that it has every whiskey made in Kentucky available (some shots cost way more than a bottle of Marker's Mark)

Enjoy your drink and think of those of us who are feeling a little dry right now!

Vince said...

Seems a master stroke of business. It's a wonder it took so long. Was there a take agin the hard stuff in Iowa.
Nowadays all the popular beers, whiskeys and wines are owned by two companies. They call it Brand Management. Long live the local micro brewery, distillery and winery.

R. Sherman said...

Very cool, though I tend to be a vodka and tonic man.

BTW, the regulation of alcoholic beverages as to their sale and manufacture is absolutely granted to the states under the amendment repealing prohibition. As such, it's the only exception to the ban on state interference with interstate commerce.


TC said...

Nice story, Ed, but what's the REAL deal? Your family took part in prohibition, didn't they? ;)

Ed said...

TC - They did but the ones that were participants were on the prohibitionist side. I'm evidently a black sheep.