I asked the fine people at Templeton Rye for a bottle of whatever they could send me. I wanted to review it. More so, I wanted to believe that in America people will send you booze just because you are a writer. As we all know, whiskey has fueled the greatness of many writers. I certainly have had my preferences, but I wanted to know what Al Capone’s favorite whiskey was like.
So “the good stuff” as it is called is Iowa’s finest rye whiskey. I got the bottle in the mail at work and walked around like I was made of Teflon. I was basically looking really cool. The bottle is corked, which I always think shows handcrafting. It conveys that this is a whiskey that came from a cask put together by humans, not in some industrial vat system. The back of the bottle was hand numbered. It made me feel pretty good about it.
I waited a week to get into the stuff because I was looking forward to it. We were set to head downtown on Saturday to Seven Grand for a birthday party. This was the right night to dive in as Seven Grand is good for whiskey. It’d be stupid to drink a bunch of what I suspected to be good whiskey before heading out of margaritas (not that I haven’t paid for that mistake in the past).
I am not a whiskey aficionado in any typical sense. I am not a connoisseur by any stretch. I am a guy who loves whiskey and everything it stands for. While I am glad that people talk about smokiness and peat and all that jazz, I am looking for what the drink is like. How it drinks.
The whiskey smelled a little sweet when we opened it. A first sip was very smooth, but packed quite a kick on the back nine. I thought at first that I was going to be too rough and tumble for this Iowan rye, but I was wrong. We put our second glass on ice and continued to enjoy it. This whiskey was strong and smooth at the same time, which are hallmarks of what I look for. I like the whiskey’s strength to be in its punch, not in its peat so to speak. The Templeton Rye was smooth, warming and substantial in every way. It stuck to your ribs. It made me want to fight a bear and pour him a glass after we’d gone a few rounds. You know, just to show him it was only a little good-natured roughhousing.
We went down to catch our cab, but it was late. We decided to head up and catch another drink before heading out. I have to be honest, I absolutely loved it. I am thrilled I have half a bottle left, though I suspect I won’t have it for long. The whiskey, as it would seem, is always running out right when it was getting comfortable.
Templeton reminded me of what is so great about whiskey. In case you are someone who is on the fence, I can elaborate. Wine lovers will spend a life time seeking different vintners and vintages, food pairing and comparing wine cellars. There will never be enough. That pursuit is about as interesting as a having a mansion and never throwing parties in it.
Whiskey is the opposite. While it’s great to try new whiskeys, I will buy my favorite brand 75% of the time. I like the consistency. I like a familiar taste attached to the memories you make (or can’t remember). Whiskey is baseball. It’s apple pie. It’s something other countries do well, but we hang right in the with the best of them. Like Templeton says, it’s “the good stuff”.
When compared to my current house whiskey, the Japanese Suntory offering of The Yamazaki 12 Year, Templeton exceeded my expectations. Yamazaki has been my go-to for over a year now because it is smooth, bright and at $34 at BevMo right now, a good deal. While Templeton is a little more expensive, when it hopefully becomes available outside of Illinois and Iowa, I will be a loyal follower. It reminded me of what American whiskey should feel like. I would certainly order it online where it is currently available (CLICK HERE if you want to try it)
I set forth to the Red Line to head downtown on the subway with a warm belly and a head full of ideas. We avoided the line at Seven Grand with an old smoke and mirrors tactic and even had time for a street taco. We ended the evening hours later at the Pantry doing things the old school way, eating breakfast in the middle of the night that was prepared on a grease-laden griddle that’s clearly been battle tested.
While my bottle of Templeton was on the house, believe me I’d have no problem saying that it was only “OK” or not that good at all. They were bold to stand up to the challenge I offered them. Maybe I wouldn’t like it? They handled it like a great poker play handles pocket aces. They knew it was possible they could be beat, but it was unlikely and they went all in.
Let’s be honest. They took the pot.
So consider me a new loyalist. Put me on the payroll. Tell me who I need to tell. Since I started this blog, I always dreamed of being sponsored in some way by a whiskey maker. It just seemed like a natural fit. When Templeton rolls out to California, this is me offering to be their man on the ground. Just like they were confident their product would hold up to the test, I am confident I’ll get their message out. In fact, when my Whiskey Drinker’s Guide to Lost Angeles comes out, I’ll probably ask you guys to be our preferred beverage sponsor. Just because you make great whiskey and you “get it”. America is the wild west. Whiskey is our jam. It is what fuels us to spit in the eye of death with a big, silly grin on our face.
In the meantime, here is my humble appeal to the good folks at Templeton. Keep the drinks coming and if you make too much, feel free to send some my way. I only have kind words for you, my new favorite export from Iowa. The previous winner was Dodgers’ third baseman Casey Blake, but let’s be honest. He never sent me an amazing bottle of whiskey.