Lawsuit accusing whiskey maker Templeton Rye of misleading advertising allowed to proceed

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A lawsuit alleging Iowa-based whiskey maker Templeton Rye misled consumers can proceed, according to the state attorney general's office.

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The move is a formality under an Iowa law that requires the state attorney general's office to evaluate such a lawsuit and determine if its claims have validity to move forward in court, The Des Moines Register reported (http://dmreg.co/1yxN348 ).

"In looking at the claims, they appeared to me to be ones that had validity, and in fact, strong validity," said Bill Brauch, director of the office's Consumer Protection Division.

The proposed class-action lawsuit was filed in Illinois by a Chicago law firm on behalf of consumers in the country who have purchased a bottle of Templeton Rye. It claims the company broke consumer protection laws and misled drinkers about the whiskey's Iowa origins. Templeton Rye is distilled in Indiana, which wasn't mentioned on bottles. The company announced in August that it will change its labels.

The lawsuit also claims the company used misleading advertisement about the whiskey's ingredients.

Company President Scott Bush and Chairman Vern Underwood told the Register in an earlier interview that the company uses stock rye whiskey from the Indiana distillery, MGP Ingredients. After being distilled and aged in Indiana, the whiskey is sent to Templeton, Iowa, where it's blended with other whiskies and water. It's then bottled and shipped.

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The lawsuit said the company's marketing indicates the whiskey is produced with use of a Prohibition-era recipe. Its company website and promotional videos have noted the company's co-founder, Maryl Kerkhoff, who has since died, learned how to produce prohibition-era Templeton rye from his father, who saved the recipe on an old scrap of paper.

Underwood told the Register that federal regulations wouldn't allow use of the recipe.

"The claims made in these unfortunate and misguided lawsuits that Templeton Rye is merely a stock whiskey poured into bottles and labeled Templeton Rye are false. We have turned the lawsuits over to our lawyers and will respond in court. We want Iowans to understand the truth about the false and damaging allegations about Templeton Rye whiskey produced and bottled in Templeton, Iowa."

A judge will next decide whether the lawsuit moves forward as a class action.

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, http://www.desmoinesregister.com