Templeton Fortitude Bourbon Review

Drink Reviews whiskey
Templeton Fortitude Bourbon Review

The Templeton Whiskey brand is an interesting one in the modern American whiskey market–it’s been around since the beginning of the brown spirits revival and bourbon boom, but never was the brand actually associated with bourbon. Rather, they were one of the early innovators in buying, blending and bottling sourced rye whiskey from MGP of Indiana, a business plan that numerous others also jumped into in the 2000s. This famously led to the brand facing class action lawsuits in 2015 from consumers who alleged they were trying to pass off the Indiana whiskey as their own, but suffice to say, that feels like pretty ancient history at this point. The transparency of the whiskey market has increased substantially since that point, and companies have been forced to evolve, Templeton included. Now they’re even making bourbon of their own–in fact, the new Templeton Fortitude Bourbon is both the first bourbon release from the brand, and their first in-house distillate made in Templeton, Iowa.

There are several aspects about this that are rather surprising. For one: Why did the Infinium Spirits brand choose to make their first-ever in-house brand a bourbon, rather than the rye they’ve been associated with for so long? Perhaps they figured they were never going to one-up the likes of MGP, and didn’t want their own distillate to be compared directly to that Indiana spirit. But it’s not like they’re leaving rye character behind, because Templeton Fortitude Bourbon is also noteworthy for a quite unusual mash bill of 55% corn, 40% rye and 5% malted barley. That blows right past any conventional “high rye” territory and into something close to bourbon-rye hybrid. It certainly seems to imply that they see rye as a key flavor component of any Templeton whiskey.

With that said, I find myself wishing that the company had gone fully transparent in including a concrete age statement in the whiskey’s marketing materials, given how much other information is available. It feels a little disingenuous for the product cared to contain such data as fermentation time (3-4 days) or yeast strain (Fermentis Safspirit!), but not the amount of time this spent in barrels. Regardless, it’s something we can deduce for ourselves with logic and legal language: The facility in Iowa began distilling in 2018, and the label’s use of the “straight bourbon” designation without any additional, specific follow up tells us that this should legally be at least 4 years old. I would guess it probably lands right around, or just above that mark. The unusually high-rye bourbon weighs in at 46% ABV (92 proof), with a $40 MSRP.

So with that said, let’s get to tasting Templeton’s first-ever bourbon release.

On the nose, Templeton Fortitude Bourbon reads as light but quite pleasant, displaying gentle sweetness and spice impressions. Light caramel and herbal rye are the main players, with grassiness, pepper and some nice sweet char–perhaps a little coffee. Clove spice and apple/pear fruitiness round things out. It’s not a bombastic nose, but it also doesn’t smell particularly young, which is a pleasant surprise. All in all, I rather like this nose, even though it’s not very assertive.

On the palate, the rye grain certainly presents itself, with significant rye spice and especially big pepper notes, supported by some honeyed sweetness and a little barrel char. There are elements of grassiness and dried herbs, and it reads as a tad spicy-hot for the relatively low proof. A slightly resinous wood character feels like an indicator of its younger age, but it again doesn’t read as debilitatingly immature by any means. If anything, what sets this back a bit is the thin texture, which feels a tad on the watery side, or even lower than the modest proof.

Ultimately, this feels to me like a flagship bourbon that probably needs more time to continue developing. It would function just fine as an easygoing mixer, but the mid-shelf is crowded with high-value staples from major producers that can deliver more bang for one’s buck in the $40 range. We’ll see how Templeton’s bourbon releases continue to evolve in the future.

Distillery: Templeton Whiskey
City: Templeton, Iowa
Style: Straight bourbon whiskey
ABV: 46% (92 proof)
Availability: 750 ml bottles, $40 MSRP

Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident brown liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.

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