Templeton Rye's history roars back with Capone visit
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Hey, that’s my uncle, says Deirdre Capone during a tour of the Templeton Rye Spirits distllery Monday afternoon. Capone says she favors her great-uncle in appearance. Daily Times Herald photo by Douglas Burns
TEMPLETON — Midway through a tour of Templeton Rye Spirits’ distillery the visiting Floridian bee-lined for a portrait hanging feet from a gaggle of empty bottles waiting for their fill of “the good stuff.”
“Hey, I know that guy,” said the tourist whose last name inspires double-takes, and among a certain generation, maybe a trace of fear.
Al Capone’s photo has long graced the north wall of this bottling room in Templeton. On Monday, his great-niece Deirdre Capone paid a visit to the city that famously helped fuel the Prohibition-era machine of arguably the most notorious organized crime figure in American history. Al Capone reportedly called Templeton Rye his drink of choice — a preference confirmed by Deirdre Capone.
“It was the good stuff,” she said. “That’s what they taught me to drink. My first real grown-up drink was Templeton Rye whiskey.”
No ice, Capone added.
The author of the 2011 book, “Uncle Al Capone,” Deirde Capone, 72, of the Naples, Fla., area, began her Carroll County two-day itinerary in Templeton on Monday with the tour of Templeton Rye Spirits distillery. She then headed to a social in Templeton and was expected to have a “nightcap” at The Still bar and restaurant.
Today, Capone will tour Templeton and rural Carroll County. She will eat lunch around noon at the Corner Station in Templeton. At 6 p.m. there will be a social and book-signing with Carroll-area residents at the Carrollton Centre prior to a 7 p.m. screening of “Capone’s Whiskey: The Story of Templeton Rye,” which chronicles the history of the liquor from its founding and the early bootlegging days under the late Joe Irbeck (described by director Kristian Day as the local “kingpin” of the rye trade) to Bush, president of the modern-day, legal incarnation of the product, TR Spirits.
Tickets to the Carroll screening and event with Capone will be $10 per person and include a TR Spirits drink, the movie and an opportunity to meet Capone. Tickets are available at the door.
During the tour Capone recalled her family keeping a stock of Templeton Rye for guests and important events. They called it “the special stuff,” she said.
Capone recently joined a Templeton Rye representative in San Francisco where she helped promote the whiskey on Alcatraz, a one-time home to her great-uncle. She’ll be speaking at a Chicago event on Dec. 5, the anniversary of the end of Prohibition. Visits to Los Angeles and other cities as a brand spokeswoman are likely.
“I’m proud to be associated with Templeton,” Capone said.
For years, Templeton Rye has leveraged its colorful history for marketing purposes with Al Capone as a central figure of intrigue. To have the last living member of his family to carry the Capone name in the local distillery, touring area farms, made an impression on Rye Spirits president Scott Bush.
“Very surreal,” Bush said. “It’s very exciting. It’s the first time I’ve ever met Deirde and Bob (her husband), and it’s kind of amazing how normal she is and just a real nice lady. I think it’s neat to tie up the historical aspect. I think there’s no doubt Capone was involved with Templeton and is a part of our history. For better or worse, it’s just neat to bring that all home and have her in Templeton as our guest.”
Templeton Rye projects sales of 360,000 bottles of rye whiskey this year — a figure that the company expects to increase as much as five times by 2016 to 1.8 million bottles.
Rye Spirits distributes in Iowa, Illinois, New York and California.
“We just went into Southern California May 1,” Bush said. “That’s a big, big, big market.”
Texas, Washington state and Oregon are in the company’s near-term sights.
“Seattle and Portland are great cocktail towns,” Bush said.
Bush said TR Spirits is refraining from going to more border states at this point to prevent Iowans from crossing state lines to buy it.
“I think we have a very robust but manageable growth strategy ahead of us,” Bush said.
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