Like Jack Daniel’s, George Dickel is not Bourbon. That’s not because, like Jack, it’s made in Tennessee instead of Kentucky; you can still make Bourbon down there (or anywhere in the U.S. now). Rather, like Jack again, it is filtered through charcoal before it goes into the barrel, a no-no in the Bourbon world.
George Dickel, from Tullahoma, Tenn., comes in some surprisingly diverse varieties, three of which we’re reviewing below. For all, the basic approach and recipe are the same. The whiskey is chill-filtered before charcoal “mellowing,” and that charcoal is made by Dickel itself from locally-sourced maple wood. Aging occurs in single-story warehouses (those must be huge), to limit variability over time, and the final product is blended with water from Cascade Springs — the same source used when the original George Dickel started making whiskey in 1870.
Er: Whisky. Like Maker’s Mark, Dickel is one of just a few distillers in the U.S. that spells whisky the Scottish way. But whatever you call it, thoughts follow. JD drinkers, give Dickel a whirl next time out and see how it stacks up.
George Dickel Cascade Hollow Tennessee Whisky (red label) – Intended to mimic the flavor of Dickel’s original whiskey from the 1870s. You’d expect that to be rough and rustic, but Cascade Hollow is actually a smooth and quite sweet whiskey, with a bold vanilla character, creamy body, a touch of black pepper spice, and a simple, somewhat short finish. Not long on complexity, but it’s really easy-drinking and an amazing value on a quality product. 80 proof. A- / $16 (discontinued in 2013)
George Dickel No. 8 Tennessee Whisky (black label) – Aged about 6 years. Clearly a bolder flavor profile here, with plenty more spice to go around, and a burly finish that packs in lots of citrus, tobacco, and creme brulee notes than the Cascade Hollow. The charcoal finishing makes itself known in the end, where some smoky notes are evident. 80 proof. B+ / $18
George Dickel No. 12 Tennessee Whisky (parchment label) – Aged 8 to 9 years on average. Dickel blends in older stock to the No. 12 version of its whiskey, and ups the alcohol to 90 proof. Good call on both fronts: No. 12 is a touch smoky like the No. 8, but the body comes across as deeper in the way it pulls the spiciness out of the grain used in the mashbill. Still a modest amount of sweetness in the finish, but whiskey fans looking for a more frontier-like experience will probably veer toward No. 12. B+ / $20