History Lives in Every Bottle we Make

Born from the Prohibition-era Kerkhoff recipe nearly a century old, Templeton Rye’s history lives in every bottle we make.

A Small Iowa Town

It was in the early 1920s that many defiant residents of a small town in Iowa became outlaws — producing a high-caliber and much sought-after whiskey known as Templeton Rye. Thanks to its smooth finish, the American rye whiskey earned the nickname of The Good Stuff and quickly brought notoriety to the tiny town of Templeton with the population of only 350 people.


Templeton, Iowa, is Established

Established during the construction of the Chicago, Milwaukee and Pacific Railroads, Templeton’s roots lie in the rich farmland of Iowa. Since day one, farmers and town merchants have depended on each other to make a living. That unique brand of loyalty can still be found in the hearts of Templeton business owners today.


The Eighteenth Amendment is Proposed

On December 18, 1917, the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was officially proposed. Thus began the talk of Prohibition and subsequently — bootlegging.


A Law is Passed

In November of 1918, a temporary Wartime Prohibition Act was passed by Congress, banning the sale of beverages with an alcohol content greater than 2.75 percent. This took effect on July 1, 1919 — a date that became known as “Thirsty First.” The Eighteenth Amendment was then approved by the 36th state on January 16, 1919, leaving the country one year to go dry.


The Beginning of Prohibition

On January 17, 1920, the Eighteenth Amendment and Volstead Act go into effect, beginning the Prohibition era in the United States. With the quality and quantity of available spirits being squeezed dry, the daring residents of Templeton, Iowa, start producing a carefully crafted bootleg rye whiskey affectionately known as The Good Stuff.

The Heyday of Bootlegging

The high-caliber spirit finds its way to Chicago, by way of cattle cars destined for the great Chicago stockyards, and earns favor with mafia kingpin Al Capone. The town of Templeton is soon supplying his gang with hundreds of kegs per month. Selling primarily Canadian whiskey, Capone nonetheless insists on Templeton Rye as his personal drink of choice — serving family and friends only The Good Stuff.


The End of a Dry Spell

On December 5, 1933, the ratification of the Twenty-First Amendment repeals the Eighteenth Amendment, officially ending Prohibition on December 15. Small batches of The Good Stuff continue to be produced illegally and enjoyed inconspicuously by those in the know around Templeton.

The Long Stretch

Capone is convicted on charges of tax evasion and transferred to Alcatraz in 1934. Rumors persist that bottles of The Good Stuff continued to find their way inside the walls and into the hands of prisoner AZ-85.

Over the next seven decades, the recipe for The Good Stuff almost becomes a legend lost to history…


A Celebration 100 Years in the Making

The town of Templeton celebrates its centennial with a three-day festival honoring its citizens and decorated history.


A New Era

Drawn to his family’s history, Scott Bush sets out to re-establish Templeton Rye whiskey by producing it legally and introducing it to a wider audience.

Meryl Kerkhoff, son of Alphons Kerkhoff, one of the most prolific Prohibition-era producers of The Good Stuff, forms a partnership with Bush and reveals the original formula. Meryl then enlists his son, Keith Kerkhoff, to join the Templeton team and carry on the family tradition.


A Rye Renaissance

Sixty-eight barrels of Templeton Rye whiskey complete their four-year aging process. The spirit is bottled and finds its way to shelves legally for the first time thanks to the collaboration of Kerkhoff, Bush and Infinium Spirits, a division of Young’s Holdings, LLC.


In August, Templeton Rye begins distribution in Illinois — giving the state its first taste of The Good Stuff since the end of Capone’s reign.


Keeping Up with Demand

The Templeton Rye facility is expanded to allow for more production to meet the growing demand. The automated bottling line arrives in Templeton during this expansion, providing a much quicker method to bottle The Good Stuff.

This same year, Templeton Rye whiskey wins four top awards at the prestigious Los Angeles Wine and Spirits Competition, which has been held for nearly seven decades.

Honors include:

  • Best of American Straight Rye
  • Best of Whiskey
  • Overall Packaging Design
  • Gold Medal, American Straight Rye Whiskey category

At the 2009 San Francisco World Spirits Tasting, Templeton Rye takes home a gold medal. More than 800 spirits from 60 countries entered the competition, which was judged by 25 renowned industry experts.

Templeton Rye is named "Rye Whiskey of the Year" in the 2009 Whiskey Bible by Jim Murray, one of the most well-known tasters in the industry.


After helping spark the resurgence of Templeton Rye, Meryl Kerkhoff passes away July 29, 2010, at the age of 81.

Volunteer bottling starts, with people from the town, state and country traveling to Templeton to help bottle our hometown whiskey. With this help, Templeton Rye is ready for purchase by the holidays.

Templeton Rye earns a second consecutive gold medal at the 2010 San Francisco World Spirits Tasting. Thirty renowned industry experts judged 1,000 spirits from 58 countries.

Templeton Rye hits the coasts in December, with product launches in New York City and San Francisco.


A Recounting of an Earlier Time

Deirdre Marie Capone, grandniece of Al Capone, publishes her book Uncle Al Capone: The Untold Stories from Inside His Family, shedding light on the man behind the mythology and further humanizing a central figure in the revered history of Templeton Rye.


The Templeton Rye barrel Tree

The photo-famous Templeton Rye barrel tree is constructed, and the first annual tree lighting ceremony takes place that holiday season. This event has since become an annual tradition with tours, guest speakers, hot cocoa and, of course, Templeton Rye.

Templeton Rye expands its distribution efforts to bring The Good Stuff to the states surrounding Iowa.


One Million

Templeton Rye hits the one-millionth-bottle mark. To celebrate this milestone, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad comes to Templeton to bottle the extra special bottle of Templeton Rye whiskey.

National Distribution

Templeton Rye marks another major milestone by establishing national distribution, partnering with distributors throughout the United States.


Creating Community

The Templeton Community Center was built, remodeling and reconstructing the old Templeton High School, which had sat vacant for years. The new community center provides a much-needed venue for local events, weddings, church gatherings and more.


Templeton Rye goes international and begins distribution in Canada.


A Day to Remember

Templeton Rye officially proclaimed January 17 National Bootleggers Day. In 1920, the 17th marked the start of Prohibition and the birth of Templeton Rye. Bootlegger Al Capone and Templeton’s own Meryl Kerkhoff were also born on this day.

Bootleggers across the nation came out to celebrate Templeton Rye and enjoy a glass of The Good Stuff. Mark your calendars to join us next year!