Review: Templeton Small Batch Rye Whiskey

Dateline:  Chicago, 1928.  Eight years ago the manufacture and sale of alcohol were banned by Constitutional Amendment.  People are so desperate for a buzz they’re drinking rub alcohol.  Goddammit, they’re so high and dry they thnk Canadian whisky is good, poor bastards.  The man making his fortune off this prohibition? Scarface Al Capone, former New York street bulldog, part time psychopath, full-time gangster.  When you run the most notorious liquor operation in the country like Al does, you have your pick of the litter.  Mr. Capone, he drinks the high class domestic product.  Not some hillbilly heat moonshine full of wood alcohol and kerosene, but Iowa’s finest, Templeton Rye.

Flash forward to today and the Rye that Templeton once only cooked up illegally is now paying its dues to the revenues and has gone legal.  This new incarnation of the speakeasy legend is steaming off a prohibition era recipe, and playing big on its underground heritage.  Beyond their reminiscences of Prohibition legends and all that jazz age hokum this new Templeton is earning a new reputation in its modern incarnation, winning numerous spirits awards, including consecutive Gold medals at the renown San Francisco Spirits Tastings in 2009 and 2010.  But what do I care about gold medals?  When it comes down to it, bathtub gin or Templeton, what ot comes down to is hooch in the glass.

What comes in a glass of Templeton?  Whiskey fit for a bootlegging magnate, Capone had taste if this is what the old boy was drinking.  A wonderful and tantalizing nose of cinnamon, peppercorn and hefty brown sugar wafts draws you into a deep and complex first sip, with rye that goes beyond just that young cinnamon burn and almost widens across the palate to reveal a hearty dose of oak that can only have come from years of patience.  This rye is clearly well crafted, which is a stunning feat for such a young brand but the secret, I suspect, is that the folks at Templeton had a stroke of genius—they used a proven recipe.  Clearly they did everything else right, but to me the greatest genius of this product is that they took a recipe for a superior product that was unused, and made a superior product.  Also, I must say, the buzz is probably better than rub alcohol too.

Photo: Review in process

Review: 2 Gingers Irish Whiskey

Ahh, there’s nothing like drinking a bit of whiskey on the 80th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition.  The warm feeling is enhanced by the feeling of history.  I’m currently watching Ken Burn’s documentary “Prohibition” in honor of the occasion, and, as the title of the article suggests, drinking 2 Gingers Irish Whiskey.  The whiskey is probably why you’re at this site. Now I could go into the marketing concept of the whiskey, how it presents itself as an outsider in the market started by two fire haired and passionate Irish women. That ground has been trodden.  Honestly, most of what I write has been trodden, but here you are.  So I may as well indulge your curiosities by telling you what you want to know: should I buy this whiskey?  Well that’s up to you now, isn’t it?

I’ll preface my note on this review before I even get into it.  I’m starting to get the feeling that the Irish whiskey market is perhaps a bit more subjective than many of the bourbons I usually indulge myself with.  You see, there doesn’t seem an Irish whiskey that is clearly rotgut.  I’ve drank rotgut American whiskies. I’ve drank whiskies knowing that they were of such low quality that I was going to get a hangover from the first sip on.  There are swill scotches, swill bourbons, Canadian whiskies.  I haven’t really seen that with Irish whiskey, I’ve seen that the is a massive spread in the category, and some are more complex, more enjoyable–but I’ve never felt that drinking this Irish whiskey was possibly a bad idea.  What I’m trying to say is, given all these presuppositions, I think it’s possible I’m bad at judging Irish whiskey.  But I must soldier on, drinking and (poorly) writing myself into martyrdom for your taste buds.

The reason I made all those excuses is because I’m not sure what to think of 2 Gingers.  The color is an almost electric yellow, to my eye, which is neither here nor there.  The nose is soft and fruity with soft pear like notes.  Once in the mouth it seems 2 Gingers is best compared on the spectrum of the standards.  In this sense, 2 Gingers is on that grainier side of Irish whiskey, veering away from the “smooth” sweetness of King Jameson toward the more hearty Bushmills.  2 Gingers in particular seems characterized by robust barley, green apple notes, and an acidic citrus towards the back of the palate.  This isn’t my favorite Irish whiskey, the acidity is a bit cutting—but I won’t say I’m not enjoying it.  I am.

The way I see things, with many so Irish whiskies in the same price range, none of which are at face unpleasant, you have to taste around.  You have to explore Irish whiskey with a keener eye, and perhaps a bit more sensitivity to that certain something in your gut, because when it comes down to it, we won’t all have the same favorite.  That’s why there are so many of them.  When it comes down to it, even a whiskey that isn’t your favorite is a glorious luxury that sinks warm into your stomach and squeegees the day from your head to your toes leaving the tenseness behind. 80 years and a day ago (two by the time I put this up) that feeling was illegal.