George Dickel’s Latest Whiskies Offer Bold Nods to the Past
How the Tennessee distillery helped revive a historic style of rye and reinvented an aggressively aged favorite
What we’re drinking: George Dickel x Leopold Bros Collaboration Rye and George Dickel 17 Year Old Reserve
Where it’s from: Owned by drinks giant Diageo, what we now know as George Dickel was first bottled in 1964, although Dickel himself started in the whisky business in 1870. Most of the brand’s product is produced out of the Cascade Hollow Distillery in Tullahoma, TN.
Why we’re drinking these: Best known for its Tennessee whisky — yes, with no “e” — Dickel (under general manager and distiller Nicole Austin’s tutelage) has recently released some excellent bourbons and ryes, plus an affordable Whisky of the Year.
A re-release of last year’s hit collaboration, the rye is a union between Dickel’s column-distilled rye and a Leopold Bros Three Chamber distilled rye (Three Chamber was a popular still used by American distillers to produce rye whiskey before Prohibition).
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“That kind of rye is so different — you wouldn’t even necessarily read it as a rye whiskey,” Austin says. “There’s a distinct caraway note, and overall it’s intriguing and big and polarizing — a real whiskey drinker’s whiskey. If it was beer, it’d be like a triple-hopped 12% IPA. So the style was really about combining this heavy-bodied rye with something more light-bodied. And also resurrecting a historic style, which is really a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”
The 17-year, meanwhile, is a straightforward cask strength Tennessee whisky that’s aged 17 years in single-story rickhouses and features the distillery’s signature mash bill of 84% corn, 8% rye and 8% malted barley. It’s also a continuation, but not a replication, of a popular 17-year-old release from 2015.
Because that release pre-dated Austin’s tenure, she began identifying barrels that go longer and get better with this more extreme aging. “For this one, we wanted to pay respect to the brand and the people who came before me,” she says. “The last 17-year release had real meaning for the company and fans of the whisky.”
No matter what Austin is working on, she really does have the whisk(e)y drinker in mind. “You shouldn’t need to tell someone a 45-minute story for people to enjoy a whiskey,” she says. We agree — let’s dig in.
How they taste:
- Dickel x Leopold: At 100 proof, this winning collaboration features a lovely and unexpected chocolate character within the baking spices, oak, lavender, licorice and dark fruit notes. It’s great on its own, but it works wonders in an Old Pal or a Perfect Manhattan.
- Dickel 17: Coming in at 92 proof, this is a bold and distinctly nutty expression, with hints of cedar (Austin suggests “cedar wax candle”), creme brulee and apricot. It’s not my usual American whiskey style, but it’s aggressive and should appeal to Dickel fans of yore.
Fun fact: If you want to find Austin’s even more ambitious releases, check out the stuff she’s putting out under the Cascade Moon moniker, which includes a barrel-proof spirit that actually couldn’t get classified as a whisky because its ABV dipped too low.
Where to buy: George Dickel x Leopold Bros Collaboration Rye has a MSRP of $110 and George Dickel 17 Year Old Reserve has a suggested retail price of $250. You can find them here.
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