Shots fired: The Daily Beast puts Templeton Rye on blast

Templeton Rye
The Daily Beast takes on Templeton Rye. — photo via Flickr Creative Commons

In an article titled, “Your ‘Craft’ Rye Whiskey Is Probably From a Factory Distillery in Indiana,” The Daily Beast calls out one of Iowa’s most beloved whiskeys, Templeton Rye, claiming that the whiskey’s “craft” image is at odds with the actual production process.

Writer Eric Felten, author of How’s Your Drink? Cocktails, Culture, and the Art of Drinking Well, claims, “In the new crowd of micro-distillers, it is now standard for the alcohol being sold to come not from their own distinctive stills, but from a hulking factory in Indiana.” The factory in question is MGP of Indiana, owned by food-ingredient corporation MGP Ingredients.

Templeton Rye, Felten points out, is one such whiskey.

Templeton Rye, by contrast, has built its successful brand on being a product of Templeton, Iowa. They tell an elaborate story about how their recipe was used by the owner’s family to make illicit whiskey in Iowa during Prohibition, and how that rye had become Al Capone’s favorite hooch. They publish a description of their “Production Process” so detailed it lists the temperature (124 degrees) at which the “rye grain is added to the mash tank.” They brag that they focus their “complete attention on executing each step of the distillation process.” And yet, for all this detail, the official “Production Process” somehow fails to mention that Templeton doesn’t actually do the distilling.

In fairness, the whiskey company acknowledges MGP of Indiana (though not by name) in a video titled, “Templeton Rye Lifecycle Project,” which is available on Templeton Rye’s website.

In the video, Templeton Rye’s Keith Kerkhoff says, “Dad and I worked with them on our recipe and got comfortable that they could consistently produce a product worthy of being called ‘the good stuff.'”

Felten describes MGP of Indiana as, “a massive brick complex that cranks out mega-industrial quantities of beverage-grade alcohol,” claiming that despite the appearance of an elaborate production process, the reality is much less flattering. Felten writes, “…clinging to the craft distiller fiction, Templeton does its best to maintain that, rather than taking MGP whiskey off the shelf, they are somehow instructing the manufacturer how to make the juice.”

The article quotes one micro-distiller who makes tacit reference to Templeton Rye — a whiskey purported to be the “drink of choice” for gangster Al Capone — even going so far as to deem it a “stock MGP recipe.”

“The smoke and mirrors used in this industry make it extremely difficult,” complains one micro-distiller who actually makes his own whiskey. “When one company talks about their heritage recipe that was a favorite of a gangster, even though it is just the stock MGP recipe, we all suffer,” because customers feel burned.

Templeton Rye has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Watch Templeton Rye’s production process video: