Templeton Rye makers toast the success of the Iowa whiskey, plan for more

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Posted: Wednesday, December 4, 2013 12:00 am

TEMPLETON, Iowa — The makers of Templeton Rye sealed and boxed their 1 millionth bottle of whiskey on Wednesday, and they plan on bottling many more in years to come.

The company already sells its rye whiskey in 40 states. By the end of 2014, it hopes to be in the remaining 10. And the company hopes to one day resume distilling its product in Templeton.

All this is a benefit to Templeton, a city of 360 about 95 miles northeast of Omaha, and to the rest of Iowa.

In remarks shortly after the bottling, Templeton Rye co-founder Scott Bush compared Templeton to the city of Lynchburg, Tenn., home of Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey. The distillery there draws 100,000 visitors a year, despite Lynchburg's small size and remoteness, Bush said.

“We really think eventually there's going to be a lot of traffic coming through Templeton,” he said. “Our product celebrates the state of Iowa, and we are starting to get some national recognition.”

Gov. Terry Branstad came to Templeton for the occasion. Sitting on the assembly line, he affixed a label and bar code to the bottle before it was placed in a box. The bottle eventually will be sold somewhere in Iowa.

“This is a startup company ... it started up right here in Iowa, and it's really taken off,” Branstad said. “We want to encourage more of this in Iowa.”

Like other Templeton bottles, the millionth one is discreetly numbered, and a code will be released in stages on the company's website so buyers can figure out if they have the milestone bottle. Other than the number, there is nothing to distinguish the bottle.

Company officials hope that whoever buys the bottle will see the number and let the company know. Bush said he would love for the buyer to come to Templeton, meet him and co-founder Keith Kerkhoff, and get a tour of the Templeton facility.

The company is based in the western Iowa town of Templeton, where rye whiskey was produced during Prohibition. Al Capone was said to be involved with the trade.

The company was formed in 2002 by Bush and Kerkhoff, two men whose families made rye in the 1920s and 1930s. The first legal bottle was sold in 2006. Including the owners, the company employs about 30 in Templeton, eight full time.

The whiskey ages at least four years in charcoal-lined oak barrels in Templeton. It was initially made in the Iowa town but is now distilled in Lawrenceburg, Ind., using the Kerkhoff family recipe. The bottling is done in Templeton.

The company has grown rapidly since it formed more than a decade ago. It now produces nearly 10,000 barrels per year; in its first year, the company produced just 68 barrels.

The company began selling its whiskey in Nebraska earlier this year.

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