On Whiskey: Templeton Rye

WARREN BOBROW (this article was originally published January 2013)

On Whiskey is a monthly column on whiskey and whiskey drinks by Warren Bobrow. For more of this great column, click this logo.

On Whiskey is a monthly column on whiskey and whiskey drinks by Warren Bobrow. For more of this great column, click this logo.

Rye Whiskey captured my heart early in my writing career.  The first time I tasted rye whiskey was up at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York. They were featuring a cocktail that had muddled summer stone fruits, lightly roasted to bring out a caramelized component. A touch of simple syrup and a healthy portion of rye whiskey were added for depth and spike. In my hand, I held dream cocktail. The cinnamon tinged finish collaborated with the toasted stone fruits and this cocktail burned its way into my subconscious.  I’ll never forget this drink.  My evening had begun on a very buzzy note.

Imagine my surprise when a bottle of Templeton Rye arrived in the mail the other day. Stone fruits are not in season, so I found my way to the produce isle at Whole Foods and picked my way through the selection of winter fruits. One of my favorite winter fruits is the sensuously flavored blood orange  Tangy, sharp, and subtly sweet notes make up this citrus fruit. You could say that I’m a big fan of blood orange juice in a cocktail. Muddled with a bit of Bitter End Thai Bitters for a deeply spicy element, the blood orange takes on sweet elements opposite the spices of the bitters.  A balance is created.

Templeton Rye is known as the “Good Stuff” and for good reason. Cocktail historians know Templeton Rye as the brand of Al Capone. There is a bit of documentation on this fact and it is well established that a few bottles of Templeton made their way into his jail cell at Alcatraz. Templeton Rye was his brand of choice because this whiskey was the cornerstone slurp of his illegal empire of speakeasies.

Rye whiskey has haunting aromatics of toasty grains, coupled with the sharper notes of spices like cinnamon and cloves in the nose. Templeton Rye takes these basic flavors and runs with them. There is a softer element to Templeton that I find quite beguiling. It reminds me in many ways from the mouth-feel to the mid-range to the finish of the toasty grains that make up Pappy Van Winkle.  I think that, side-by-side, Templeton is an easier drink.  I’m hoping that you will to because getting a bottle of Pappy is just about impossible if you live in a non-allocated state. I’m not going to go out on a limb by saying that Templeton is better; I’m just going to say that it is very pleasing across my tongue. It has a very smooth finish.  But it is not weak by any sense of the word. It’s just easy to enjoy!

Photo courtesy of Templeton Rye

Tasting notes and a Cocktail Made with Templeton Rye

Aroma: Caramelize stone fruits in the nose give way to a soft, luscious/creamy feel that doesn’t burn. It almost smells like the perfect turkey meatloaf that is cooking in the toaster oven. Robust?  Yes indeed, but it doesn’t burn my nostrils in any way.

Flavor: Soft across my tongue. Could this be a breakfast spirit? Certainly, just don’t let your spouse see you drinking at 9:15 in the morning! The liquid caresses my mouth, coating it in the sweet grains. Is this really 80 Proof? It certainly doesn’t taste like it!

Mouth-feel: Creamy, softness – like dropping your head into a pillow made of Eiderdown. It’s very soft. No harsh burn. The warmth radiates across your tongue and back to the far reaches of your mouth. Templeton offers a very friendly slurp. There is the oak revealing itself at the mid-range. This rye whiskey is toasty and light in the mouth-feel.  Not overpowering in any way, nor should it be. It’s very elegant.

Finish: Ah, the finish. It goes on and on revealing caramelized stone fruits at the back of your tongue tinged with light, candy sugar.  Deeper, thicker molasses reveals itself finally and coats the back of the throat for a multi-minute finish. This is really the good stuff. I’m very, very impressed!

By Eric Hill from Boston, MA, USA (Blood Orange) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Eric Hill from Boston, MA, USA (Blood Orange) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Templeton Winter Cocktail


  • Templeton Rye
  • Blood Oranges (cut into rounds, lightly broiled to bring out the sweetness)
  • Bitter End Thai Bitters
  • Simple Syrup
  • Lime juice (freshly squeezed of course)
  • Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water (Pink Grapefruit)


Broil a couple rounds of blood orange until they just take on a char (then let cool)

To a Boston Shaker add:

A few rounds of the toasted blood orange

.50 oz. fresh lime juice

Three drops of Bitter End Thai Bitters

Muddle the blood orange and the Thai Bitters together with the lime juice


3 oz. Templeton Rye Whiskey

Fill your shaker ¾ with ice

Shake for 15 seconds

Strain into a coupe’ glass

Garnish with a broiled blood orange round

Drink to Al Capone!




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