Wednesday, May 28, 2008

TR Spirits Showcases Expanded Distillery

TEMPLETON — Templeton Rye Spirits, the legal descendant of Carroll County’s historical and colorful bootlegged-booze business, Tuesday showcased a dramatically expanded distillery and facility to more than 100 local development leaders, state dignitaries and others.

Located in a Templeton business park, the TR Spirits distillery includes a new bottling line, whiskey lab, barrel warehouse, gift shop and grand tasting room — that latter which includes a smorgasborg of historical photos and shelves of shirts, hats and other memorabilia.

Now in the Iowa and Illinois markets, and about a year removed from a splashy launch in Chicago where some 2,000 businesses are linked with the west-central-Iowa crafted whiskey, TR Spirits is on a deliberate path to break into more states and overseas, Bush said.

“I’ve met and spent time with people from all over the world,” Bush said. “Templeton Rye is a product you will someday see on the top shelf in London, New York and Shanghai.”

Templeton Rye will hold an open house from 1 to 5 p.m. on June 7. The popular Iowa music group The Nadas — which performs a Templeton Rye song — will then have a concert starting at 6 p.m.

Specifically, the facility has increased in size from 1,500 square feet to about 12,000 square feet with production capability high-jumped 10 times for the whiskey, which is aged in new charred white oak barrels that are later shipped off to Scotland for use in the scotch trade.

The first bottles of the trademarked legal rye whiskey were produced in 2005.
Templeton Rye Spirits has trademarked the name “Templeton Rye” and is treating the recipe for Prohibition-era single-barrel rye whiskey as a trade secret, much like the formula for Coca-Cola or Kentucky Fried Chicken. It closely guards elements of the production process, but Bush did say the company is working aggressively to get more product out as the initial batches proved to0 small for the whiskey thirsty in Iowa.

“We’re still in a situation where our demand far exceeds our supply,” Bush said.

Bush said rye is coming back into favor with urban hipsters looking for something “cool” to serve friends.

“Even young adults are drinking the old-fashioned cocktails,” Bush said. “The American palate is really coming back to rye whiskey.”

Forbes Traveler recently named Templeton Rye one of the world’s hot new “deluxe distilleries.”

“Itsy-bitsy Templeton never cared much for Prohibition,” Forbes Traveler writes. “Townsfolk ignored it and continued creating their proprietary hooch, Templeton Rye. The spirit was affectionately known as ‘The Good Stuff,’ and its well-lubricated fans included Al Capone who sold it at his Chicago speakeasies — and reportedly had Templeton smuggled into his Alcatraz prison cell. The resurrected, and now legal, Templeton Rye is as spicy as it is smooth.”

Members of the Carroll Area Development Corp., Templeton Area Development Corp., and others toured the facility along with several state legislators.

State Rep. Helen Miller, D-Fort Dodge, said she recently took a bottle of Templeton Rye to her son-in-law in Baltimore, Md.

“Everybody sampled it and really liked it,” Miller said.

She said Bush and Templeton Rye are inspirational stories for potential business development in rural Iowa.

“There are so many places you cannot do this,” Miller said. “You can come to rural Iowa and start a business.”

TADC president Nick Romey, speaking during a luncheon at the facility, said that organization has an option on a 120-acre tract of land near utilities and rail.
“We have the space for you,” he told visitors.

For his part, Bush has been urging lawmakers to change provisions in regulation of spirits to allow Templeton Rye to sell bottles to visitors at the site as part of what Bush believes can be a major tourism push.

He said if TR Spirits secures the ability to sell bottles to visitors on site that there likely would be additional expansion with a potential museum and interactive features in Templeton — all of which could be a catalyst for more economic development in Carroll County.

Bush says the future of this southern Carroll County town can be seen in Lynchburg, Tenn.

While TR Spirits is more of a niche product and Jack Daniels — famously distilled in Lynchburg — is something of a Goliath in the booze business, Bush thinks Templeton can become a destination.

“One doesn’t have to stretch their mind too far to understand that,” Bush said. “We’d like to do a lot more.

The draw: a rich mix of history, drinking and agriculture.

“We’d like to help turn Templeton into a Lynchburg where the whole town is involved,” Bush said.

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