Whiskey Review: George A. Dickel Barrel Select Tennessee Whisky

Editor’s Note: The whiskey from this review was provided to us by the company behind it as a product sample. No compensation was received by The Whiskey Wash for this review and no outside editorial influence occurred during the review process.

George Dickel & Co would like you to think of their whisky as “Mellow as Moonlight.”  Or, rather, liquour titan Diageo, the driving force behind Dickel whisky, would.  If there’s one thing they do as well as fine spirits, it is serious marketing.  In the end, though, no amount of marketing can cover the truth of the actual product. Queue the release of George A. Dickel Barrel Select Tennessee Whisky.  Like all good marketing these days, it’s the story that sells:

In 1867, so the story goes, George Dickel and his wife Augusta traveled to the Cascade Hollow of Tennessee.  Struck by the pure water and the wild loveliness, George declared he had found the location for his new venture – a distillery that would turn out the best of American whiskey.  The subsequent whiskey was so good, in fact, that George declared it was “as fine as any Scotch,” and insisted his spirit should be properly spelled whisky – without the American “e.”  Success – for a time – was assured.  Dickel Tennessee Whisky soon grew to be the biggest operation of the region.  But the winds of time were not kind.  The devastation of Prohibition claimed the distillery, and a true American spirit (despite its old world spelling) was no more.

image copyright The Whiskey Wash

image copyright The Whiskey Wash

So it was, until 1958, when the emergence of cocktail culture and the onset of the first modern whiskey revival brought George A. Dickel & Co. back with a bang.  Boasting the original recipe  – in George’s own handwriting – as well as detailed process notes, the new Dickel rose just as quickly in quality and fame as the old.  Old George noted that whisky made in the winter is smoother, so all George Dickel spirit is chilled before it is charcoal filtered.  After the filtering, the spirit is aged in new charred oak barrels.   A sour mash process ensures flavor consistency from batch to batch, and the new surge of whiskey popularity lends a bit of happily ever after to the tale. Good story, but is it good whisk(e)y?

Presented in a rough-hewn box, with a brass label and chain around its neck, the 9 year George Dickel Barrel Select Tennessee Whiskey we were given as a product sample gleams like a wood fire. The color is deep mahogany (a good match for the wood stain used on the cork top).

At 86 proof, there is only the faintest suggestion of alcohol on the nose.  Instead, a rich caramel swirls through vanilla and dried fruit, with a promise of spice box.

On the palate, the whisky delivers a warming cinnamon burst – thanks to the addition of 8% rye to a mostly corn bill – with caramelized ginger notes before deepening into a complex tango of buttery vanilla and steeped fruit.

The finish is long and sweet – but not cloying – with an elusive menthol edge, like a hint of grass under snow.

Part moonlight, part marketing, part expert craftsmanship – the combination gives George Dickel Barrel Select Tennessee Whisky a score of 91 points – definitely a whiskey worth searching out, no matter how you spell it.

About the author

Tish Lester

Tish Lester is a former restauranteur whose love of good flavors led her to the world of whiskey, where she is an avid participant, having attended nosings, tastings and master classes throughout Europe and the United States. She has recently discovered the truth that for every moment in our lives, there is a perfect whiskey pairing. Tish currently enjoys her daily dram near Portland, OR.