George Dickel makes the "other" Tennessee whisky, i.e., not Jack. Tennessee whisky is in almost all ways like bourbon except for the fact that they put it through the "Lincoln County Process." This involves filtering the whisky through maple charcoal and a layer of wool before aging it. It can't be called bourbon because this is considered "artificial" flavoring (additionally Tennessee whisky does not necessarily have to have 51% corn, which bourbon does). The charcoal mellows the whisky, providing sweetness and jump starting the aging process by giving the young whisky immediate contact with wood.
I've had 4 different bottles of George Dickel and thought it was time to do a little review and comparison. These are in ascending order. You should know I take value into account, and the middle two were really tough to sort out for that reason. I plan to post on my value theories at a later date. Okay without further ado:
George Dickel Cascade Hollow (red label) $20/750 ml
For me this is the worst of the bunch. I don't have tasting notes as I had this prior to keeping them. I just remember being so disappointed; I had had the No. 12 Label before and really liked it. It tasted cheap and reminded me of some super cheap bourbons such as Heaven Hill and Old Crow. I did some research and found this is supposed to be their budget whisky. I think I just paid way too much markup. I probably wouldn't have minded if I paid $10, at least I would have known what to expect.
George Dickel Old. No. 8 $15/750ml
This stuff is one of the best bargains in the whisky world. A fine sipping whisky. I am slightly hesitant to use the word "pleasant" but it's damn close. It's...inoffensive, which sounds like damning with faint praise but if you've had other whiskies in this price class you will appreciate that comment. I am very excited that the Quaker State of PA decided to start stocking this; I plan to use it in my version of the Blues Explosion cocktail, which I originally had at the Franklin, a cocktail bar in Rittenhouse Square (see recipe below).
George Dickel Barrel Select $35/750 ml
This is a decent whisky. I got a bracing, floral aroma on the nose. My tasting notes say "maple, mellow. ember type burn; campfire" to describe the taste. A soft medium finish. It was good stuff but probably not comparable to the quality one can get in the bourbon world at that price.
George Dickel No. 12 $26/1 L
Again, I have no tasting notes on this one, but I know I bought this in NY state last Thanksgiving. I think I've seen it in Jersey since then but definitely not PA. This would be one for my regular rotation. To me the ideal "sippin' whisky." Mellow but with flavor, the same price as Jack but much better. All in all I feel this is their best offering.
Blues Explosion Cocktail
1.5 oz Tennessee Whisky
.75 oz fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
1-2 tsp. maple syrup
5-6 dashes Angostura bitters
combine ingredients, shake and strain over ice, garnish with a cherry if you like