Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | July 29, 2010

RIP Meryl Kerkhoff

Before I got into cocktails and before I got into rye whiskey, I got into Templeton Rye. Templeton is a Prohibition era whiskey made in Iowa. I was working on a political campaign at the time and Templeton was a favorite of our Iowa field staff. It’s really a great product – one of the more interesting ryes in my view, built more for sipping than cocktails. Sadly, it’s not available any place I’ve live since then, but if you or a friend is passing through Iowa, make sure to pick up a bottle of Templeton.

I received an email from Templeton today announcing the death of Meryl Kerkhoff, their master distiller. I never met the man, but he made a rye that has literally been the definition of for me over the last number of years. Templeton has recently completed a series of videos of wherein Meryl reminisced about his time and experiences with Templeton. The first segment is posted above and the video playlist can be viewed here.

The full email from Templeton announcing Meryl’s passing is below the fold.

Meryl Kerkhoff, 1929-2010

MerylDear friends,

It is with a heavy heart that I reach out to tell you that we have lost Templeton Rye Master Distiller Meryl Kerkhoff. Meryl died at Manning Hospital, surrounded by his family. I really struggle to put into words how much we all admired this great man. He will be missed dearly.

Meryl was a child of the Depression, born a mile from our current distillery in Templeton in 1929 to Alphonse and Frances (Bluml) Kerkhoff. He attended Sacred Heart School in Templeton and graduated in 1946. Meryl fought in Korea for two years and went on to a successful career as a farmer and auctioneer. He and his wife Imelda had seven children and 14 grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are being handled by Ohde Funeral Home in Manning, Iowa.

Meryl had a presence that was unmistakable. He was a true gentleman and a man of great stature, both in size and in character. I will always remember how his huge hands, strengthened by a lifetime of farming, would totally engulf those of anyone who would shake them. He dressed well, yet modestly, and had his signature Templeton Rye cap slightly tilted, or “a little cocky” as he would say.

Meryl and KeithMeryl had a sense of humor and his own language that greatly amused the rest of our team. A nice place was “Uptown” and when things were going well we were “Cadillacing.” He was a caring man who was always excited to see you and would ask, “So, how’ve things been going?” Meryl was a patient man and was more likely to listen than to talk. He gave Keith and I great advice over the years and was always very thorough about issues that impacted our company.

Obviously things will continue at Templeton Rye and Keith has been handling the day-to-day duties for sometime. Genetics are a powerful thing I guess, as I look at what I have written about Meryl, I could very well be describing Keith.

Please keep Meryl, Imelda, Keith and all of the Kerkhoff family in your thoughts and prayers.

At Meryl’s request, we got together a couple of weeks ago to record Meryl, Keith and I reminiscing about some of our experiences with the company. We video taped a portion of the discussion which can be seen below.

Scott Bush, President, Templeton Rye



  1. […] was a bittersweet day as Keith’s father, Meryl passed away earlier in the week. Meryl was the big connection to the history of Templeton Rye. His son, Keith, […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: