Templeton's million-bottle day
Governor joins southern Carroll County in TR Spirits' milestone celebration
December 5, 2013
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad holds the 1-millionth bottle of Templeton Rye produced at the Templeton facility during a packaging ceremony Wednesday. Branstad helped label the bottle, which will be distributed to an unknown area in Iowa in the next week. Assisting with the labeling is Gin Knobbe, who has been employed with Templeton Rye Spirits since its opening in 2006. The bottle can be identified with a nondescript nine-digit code.
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What if you buy Bottle 1 Million?
Templeton Rye Spirits president and co-founder Scott Bush joked that he and co-founder Keith Kerkhoff briefly considered drinking the 1-millionth bottle of the popular Prohibition-era inspired whiskey. But they realized it would be best to share it with Iowans who helped the Templeton company flourish.
And in doing so, they have come up with a marketing plan where the nondescript bottle will be randomly distributed to a retailer within the next week to 10 days. The bottle's nine-digit production code was recorded by Bush, Kerkhoff and distillery manager Kevin Boersma Wednesday as Gov. Terry Branstad placed the 750-milliter bottle in an ordinary Templeton Rye shipping box.
The timing isn't coincidence. Dec. 4, 2013, marked the eve of the 80th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition.
The box and pallet were to be sent to the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division for distribution on Dec. 9.
Where the bottle will end up is based entirely on random chance. Boersma said where - and how quickly - the lucky bottle winds up on a store shelf depends on the pace of orders for Templeton Rye.
Templeton Rye is now distributed in 40 states. But Bush wanted to make it clear to guests and members of the media gathered Wednesday for a special ceremony that the 1-millionth bottle would be sold in Iowa - the state that has supported the company's efforts since it began distribution in 2006.
With the help of Branstad, Templeton Rye unveiled the first digit of the nine-digit serial number at the end of Wednesday's ceremony. The first digit is the number "5" and for the next eight weeks the company will reveal one additional number. The last digit will be released on Jan. 17, 2014, the date of Al Capone's birthday. Reportedly, Capone favored drinking the illegal version of Templeton Rye.
The company has a special website dedicated to the million-bottle celebration where the serial numbers will be published: http://www.templetonrye.com/millionthbottle/
See let's say you buy the millionth bottle. What then?
"Think you've found it? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know," Templeton Rye says on the website.
After all, you can drink it neat or on the rocks, but Templeton Rye is always served with some intrigue.
What's next for Templeton Rye?
Templeton Rye Spirits president and co-founder Scott Bush said the company plans to consolidate the full production in Templeton.
"Our goal is to bring all facets of production here," Bush said. "That's a big thing."
TR Spirits has worked with MGP, a former Seagram's facility in Lawrenceburg, Ind., since 2002. The distilling takes place in Indiana with all the bottling in Templeton.
Bush said TR Spirits owns land around the Templeton facility so the company is set up to expand.
"We plan to distill the first Templeton Rye whiskey here in 2014," Bush said. "That will be a big step forward."
Bush hesitates to go further with timetables on the consolidation.
"There are so many moving parts to it," Bush said. "It could be five years. It could be 20 years. It's tough to say. It will happen."
At that point, the Templeton facility would see its employment increase from the current 20 to as many as 50 full- and part-time people, Bush said.
Templeton Rye is now in 40 states - and there is no region the company has failed to penetrate.
The company plans to enter the foreign market as well.
"That's another thing that we're really looking at closely," Bush said. "There is Templeton Rye available places (outside of the United States), but's that's when guys will buy it in the states."
Bush said the likely first international move is into Canada.
"I was just in Europe, in Germany, for an industry event about two months ago, to study it," Bush said.
Bush compared starting Templeton Rye Spirits to watching an iceberg.
"You look at it on a day-to-day basis, it doesn't look like it's moving," Bush said. "When you look at it over a year or two, you can see how far things have come."
Gov. Terry Branstad had about as much fun as possible with Templeton Rye on a Wednesday morning - without actually drinking The Good Stuff.
The governor carefully placed labeling on Templeton Rye Spirits' 1-millionth bottle, guided by the practiced hand of company veteran Gin Knobbe during a mid-morning ceremony in southern Carroll County.
Branstad beamed as he assisted company co-founders Scott Bush and Keith Kerkhoff seal the box for shipping Bottle No. 1 million to the state's liquor warehouse in Ankeny for general distribution into the Iowa market.
"That's one of the benefits of being governor," Branstad said. "You get to do fun things."
Hounded in its Prohibition-era infancy by government "revenuers," Templeton Rye basked in the statewide media limelight cast by an admiring governor for the better part of two hours.
Branstad was on the job Wednesday, so no nipping from the bottles rolling down the production line. But the five-term governor told Carroll Countians, that, yes, he does drink Templeton Rye. Had a little on Tuesday night, as a matter of fact, the governor said.
In remarks during a formal ceremony Branstad said Templeton Rye's entrepreneurial spirit is an inspiration.
"They're putting Templeton on the map," Branstad said to a crowd of about 100 people gathered for the event.
He sees major potential for economic development associated with the growing Templeton company.
"I understand you're in about 40 states and will probably be in all 50 states in the very near future," Branstad said. "Obviously, this can become a significant tourism attraction. We think of the site where 'Field of Dreams' was filmed and the amount of people that go there. I think there's going to be a lot of interest in this."
Branstad said there's a bottom-line effect on the state's economy as well.
"I want to thank you for this because the state gets a 50 percent mark-up," Branstad said, referencing the state-regulated sales of liquor. (There's also a state sales tax of 6 percent and federal excise tax, the latter representing about 8 percent of the actual purchase price of a $25 bottle of whiskey, according to the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division.)
With its first product hitting the market in 2006, Templeton Rye has grown into a brand recognized across the United States (Templeton Rye is even in Hawaii now.)
"Our product celebrates the state of Iowa, and we're really starting to get some national recognition," Bush said.
He said company employees deliberated for some time about what to do with the 1-millionth bottle. Should they put it up in a museum? Display it in the Templeton Rye building?
"A lot of times we thought about drinking it," he said.
Templeton Mayor Ken Behrens said Templeton Rye has been a big part of the region's history.
"I can only hope that we will see many milestones," Behrens said.
Prior to the ceremonial bottling, Bush and Kerkhoff led the governor on a tour of Templeton Rye, through the initial production area first used in 2005 and into the 11,000-square-foot expansion of 2007. Branstad delighted in the history of the showroom area, discussing how his predecessors handled the booze trade and reading old newspaper articles on Templeton Rye.
He recalled seeing the 2011 Kristian Day documentary "Capone's Whiskey: The Story of Templeton Rye."
Branstad noted that the older people interviewed in that film were reluctant to divulge many details.
"That generation was brought up not to talk about Templeton Rye," Branstad said.
One western Iowa ag-businessman with ties to the bootlegging era, 93-year-old Gus Schroeder of Wall Lake, attended the event, where he chatted with the governor and obliged media members with interview requests.
The great-uncle of Scott Bush, Schroeder said memories of his long-gone relatives, some of the early pioneers of the rye trade, surfaced as Branstad extolled the legal incarnation of Templeton Rye.
"I would think they'd have to be happy because it would be an advancement, a tremendous advancement, and something they started," said Schroeder, whose dad, Frank, was involved in "big-time" production in Sac County.
At one time, the Schroeders had 3,300 10-gallon kegs of whiskey stored in a cattle shed, Gus Schroeder said in an interview with The Daily Times Herald.
"They went out at eight kegs a time in the back end of a car," he said. "The back seat was taken out. We could get eight of them in there."
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