National Bootlegger's Day
annually on January 17th (since 2016)
Infinium Spirits in June 2015
Founded by Infinium Spirits in 2015, National Bootlegger's Day celebrates the birth of Templeton Rye, a rye whiskey, and "recognizes an era when bootleggers became legendary." Besides being the date when Templeton Rye got its start, January 17 is, ironically, the birthday of Al Capone, the date when Prohibition went into effect, and the birthday of Meryl Kerkhoff, one of the founders of the reintroduced Templeton Rye brand, who was a son of one of the distillers of Prohibition-era Templeton Rye, Alphonse Kerkhoff.
Prohibition went into effect on January 17, 1920, outlawing the manufacturing, transportation, and sale of alcohol. It didn't halt the demand for liquor, so bootleggers came on the scene to help fill the need. They smuggled liquor from Canada and Mexico, and also distilled their own, selling it to individuals and to establishments such as speakeasies. This precipitated the rise of gangsters and the Mafia, and characters like Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, and Bugs Moran became household names.
With the start of Prohibition, residents of the small Iowa town of Templeton began producing what was called Templeton Rye, which also came to be known as "The Good Stuff," an amber-colored rye whiskey. The distillers primarily were farmers who wanted to supplement their income, the most notable being Alphonse Kerkhoff. The whiskey made its way to Chicago on cattle cars that were headed to the Chicago stockyards. Not only did it become popular in the speakeasies of Chicago, but it found its home in the speakeasies of Michigan, Kansas City, and Omaha. After becoming Al Capone's favorite whiskey, it was given yet another name: Capone's Whiskey. Some residents around Templeton continued to illegally make it following the repeal of Prohibition.
Templeton Rye went back on the shelves—this time legally—in 2006, is based on the recipe from Prohibition, and aged in charred new oak barrels. The new company was founded by Scott Bush and Meryl Kerkhoff, the son of Alphonse Kerkhoff, in collaboration with Infinium Spirits, who later came up with National Bootlegger's Day. At first, the whiskey was distilled and aged in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, and Templeton was only used for bottling. Today a distillery and visitor center can be found in Templeton. Templeton Rye started national distribution in 2013 and became available outside of the United States in 2015.
How to Observe National Bootlegger's Day
Some ways you could spend the day include:
- Share a bottle of Templeton Rye with friends or family. Perhaps you could try a new recipe while you're at it.
- Post about the day on social media using the hashtags #BootleggersDay or #TempletonRye.
- Visit Templeton, Iowa, and stop at the Templeton Rye distillery and visitor center.
- Pretend you are a bootlegger and make your own rye whiskey.
- Watch Capone's Whiskey: The Story of Templeton Rye or Prohibition.
- Read a book about bootlegging.