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Where Templeton Rye Is made
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Where Templeton Rye Is made

You might say Templeton, population 350, is a hamlet with a “spirited” history since it’s the home of the famed Templeton Rye whiskey.

It all started in 1920, when Prohibition outlawed the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages. Local residents and area farmers fired up stills and began producing bootleg rye.

But this wasn’t just ordinary moonshine. The rye whiskey that flowed from the Templeton stills gained a reputation as “The Good Stuff.” When Al Capone learned of it, his gang bought hundreds of barrels per month to supply speakeasies in Chicago, New York and as far west as San Francisco.

To keep ahead of federal agents, the illegal whiskey was stored in caves, hog houses, and even in the hollowed-out tombstone of a priest buried in the local cemetery.

After Prohibition ended in 1933, a few tight-lipped locals continued to make The Good Stuff in small quantities for special customers—never revealing the secret recipe.

Among them was Alphonse Kerkhoff, who had been twice busted by the feds. His son Meryl learned the art at a young age and was taught never to talk to strangers about it.

Fast-forward to 2001, when entrepreneur Scott Bush set out to reestablish Templeton Rye as a legal brand. After months of discussion, he persuaded Meryl to share the nearly century-old recipe, which was handwritten on a small scrap of paper.

After four years of aging, 68 barrels were ready for market in 2006. Templeton Rye caught on like a prairie fire and demand exceeded the supply, which created an even greater thirst for The Good Stuff.

From that humble start, Templeton Rye now produces about 6,000 barrels annually, and has 23,000 barrels aging. And from the initial distribution in Iowa, it’s now available in every state except Utah.

Tours of the production area, barrel warehouse, bottling line and tasting room (yup—they offer samples!) are generally twice daily at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday through Friday. (E-mail tours@templetonrye.com for more information.)

This content previously appeared in the popular “Road Trip” series in Our Iowa Magazine. Learn more about the publication at www.OurIowaMagazine.com.

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  1. Travel Iowa Team
    Travel Iowa Team
    What a great story! Thanks so much for posting!
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