A Capone joins Carroll Countians for celebration of Templeton Rye
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Deidre Capone, grand-niece of Chicago gangster Al Capone, leans across a table to talk with a visitor during a book signing at the Carrollton Centre Tuesday night. Capone, who lives in the Naples, Fla., area, authored “Uncle Al Capone” in 2011. Deidre Capone confirmed that her great-uncle called Templeton Rye his drink of choice and he bootlegged the booze during Prohibition. “My first-grown up drink was Templeton Rye whiskey,” Capone said. Daily Times Herald photos by Jeff Storjohann.
In a new Templeton Rye documentary Manning cattleman Gene Wiese recalls his boyhood perspective on the whiskey trade in southern Carroll County.
Survival and loyalty were the clear motivators, and greed just didn’t seem to be an issue, Wiese says in the film.
What’s more, many of the Carroll County sources in director Kristian Day’s movie, said a strict code of silence prevailed. In Italian, that’s known as “omerta,” Deirde Capone told an audience of more than 100 people who attended a Tuesday night showing of “Capone’s Whiskey: The Story of Templeton Rye.”
With the film, and in conversations over various rye cocktails, Capone, great-niece of Chicago gangster Al Capone, Carroll Countians and others with ties to rye, took a sledgehammer to omerta. After all, the major players in the illicit Prohibition production are long gone. Now is time to chronicle and celebrate their stories, say Templeton Rye cheerleaders.
“Capone’s Whiskey” even went so far as to reveal a hidden exchange for Templeton Rye in Sacred Heart Cemetery.
Templeton Rye Spirits, the modern, legal company, hosted the evening with Deirdre Capone, who signed copies of her memoir, “Uncle Al Capone,” and mingled with guests at the Carrollton Centre ballroom, before the movie. On Monday, she toured Templeton Rye Spirits distillery and met for drinks at the The Still in Templeton.
“She fit right in,” said Templeton Area Development Corp. president Nick Romey. “She’s just as common as an old shoe, just like we all are. She visited with everybody that came up and approached and talked to her.”
Romey said Deirdre Capone’s Templeton tour connects the historical dots between Carroll County, the production point for rye, and Chicago, a major market for the whiskey, with gangster Al Capone as a ruling figure during Prohibition.
“For a lot of years nobody could really pinpoint if Templeton Rye actually did get to Capone,” Romey said. “There was always heresay. But after talking to her, and listening to what she had to say, it actually did.”
Ed Washa, a 62-year-old retired from the computer business in Council Bluffs, traveled to Carroll for the rye event with his friend Dale Wichman, 77, of Council Bluffs.
“We’re Templeton Rye fans,” Washa said.
Washa said he enjoys both the taste of Templeton Rye and its colorful history.
“The stories and the drink, put them together, and it’s just an interesting deal,” Washa said.
Wichman drank his Templeton Rye straight as he waited for the movie to start.
“It’s the only way to drink it,” Wichman said. “It’s the best flavor.”
Deirdre Capone said her family regarded Templeton Rye as “the special stuff.” She recalled eating salami-and-cheese sandwiches with her grandfather Ralph Capone and having her first “grown-up” drink with him — Templeton Rye with just a spoon splash of water to summon the flavor.
“He told me that they had this special brew from Iowa,” Capone said.
A 30-minute version of the Templeton film — “Templeton Rye: Iowa’s Good Stuff” — is available on Amazon’s On Demand service. The movie rents for $1.99 and sells for $3.99 on Amazon’s streaming service.
That film is a prequel to Day’s larger project, “Capone’s Whiskey: The Story of Templeton Rye,” which chronicles the life of the liquor from its founding and the early bootlegging days under the late Joe Irbeck (described by Day as the local “kingpin” of the rye trade) to Scott Bush, president of the modern-day, legal incarnation of the product, TR Spirits.
Day’s team shot 38 hours of footage related to Templeton and whiskey.
“Both films have taken off really well,” Day said.
The films soon will be released on DVD with some extended footage from the shoots in the package.
For the time being, in addition to entering film contests, Day is touring “Capone’s Whiskey.” Modern America Cinema has screened the movie at theaters across Iowa, ranging from Pocahontas to Marshalltown to Iowa City.
In April, the Vinton theater oversold a showing — selling 203 tickets for 198 seats. Day and Templeton Rye Spirits are working to negotiate a showing of the hour-plus version at the Carroll 5 Theatres.
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