Templeton Rye sued in fraud class action

Posted on: December 5th, 2014 by Steve Larson

Consumer ProtectionA consumer has filed a lawsuit against Templeton Rye, claiming the Iowa company broke consumer protection laws.  The complaint alleges that Templeton Rye misrepresented its purported Prohibition-era origins.  The suit filed in Cook County Circuit Court in Illinois on behalf of “all individuals in the United States who’ve purchased a bottle of Templeton Rye,” comes after revelations in August that the whiskey is made using the stock recipe of an Indiana distillery.

Since the company released its first bottles of whiskey in 2006, its marketing materials have said the founders were inspired by the Prohibition-era recipe of Alphonse Kerkhoff handed down through his family on a scrap of paper. But in an interview last month, company chairman Vern Underwood said federal regulations prevent the company from making the whiskey using the Kerkhoff recipe, said to have been loved and bootlegged by Chicago gangster Al Capone.

The company also announced plans to begin printing on its labels that the whiskey is distilled in Indiana. The issue gained national media attention after The Daily Beast published an article in July detailing how numerous “craft” whiskey brands buy their product from MGP Ingredients, a Lawrenceburg, Ind., distillery.

Prior to the company’s recent admissions, Templeton Rye worked to deceive drinkers into believing “the good stuff” was a craft whiskey made in Iowa, violating the Iowa Consumer Fraud Act, according to the lawsuit. The complaint includes pictures of the company’s marketing tools, including a T-shirt reading, “Templeton Rye: Made in Iowa” and a flyer from a tasting at a Chicago bar that advertises the “small-batch rye whiskey made in the tiny town of Templeton.”

“Consumers, seeking an alternative to mainstream, mass-produced alcoholic beverages have purchased hundreds of thousands of bottles of Defendant’s Templeton Rye and have paid a premium price over other whiskeys to obtain those qualities,” the lawsuit said. “Unfortunately, thousands of consumers across the country have been injured by Defendant’s deceptive marketing practices.”

Christopher McNair, the plaintiff in the lawsuit, is a Chicago resident who purchased “more than a dozen” bottles of Templeton Rye between 2008 and 2014, the lawsuit said. McNair paid approximately $35 for each bottle, believing he was paying extra for the whiskey because of its craft distillation process and roots to small-town Iowa.

Seattle food safety lawyer Bill Marler said in August that he believed the company’s marketing tactics were creating a ripe situation for a class-action lawsuit.