Whisky Review: George Dickel 17-Year-Old Reserve Whisky

George Dickel 17 Year OldEditor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a free sample to review by the party behind it. The Whiskey Wash, while appreciative of this, did keep full independent editorial control over this article.

Tennessee’s George Dickel Distillery is one of the largest distilleries in the state, and after Jack Daniels, perhaps is the most well known.

The historic brand began in the late 1800s when George Dickel’s retail company purchased an existing distillery in Cascade Hollow. The distillery closed during prohibition, reopened in the 1930s, was relocated, and went through numerous changes of ownership throughout the 20th century.

Through all that time, the recipe has remained essentially the same. The mash bill is made from 84% corn, 8% rye, and 8% malted barley, and the distillate is run through sugar maple charcoal (the infamous “Lincoln County Process”) before aging. The result is a true Tennessee whiskey (although they spell it “whisky”), which is also technically a bourbon, and can legally be called corn whiskey. How’s that for versatile?

George Dickel recently released a limited-edition George Dickel 17-Year-Old Reserve expression after distiller Allisa Henley (who recently made the jump to Popcorn Sutton) allegedly discovered a cache of 80 17-year-old barrels languishing, forgotten, in the back of the warehouse.

I suppose such a thing is possible, but part of me wants to roll my eyes. George Dickel is now owned by Diageo, the largest spirits company in the world, and the “forgotten barrel” story just feels a little…suspect. But no matter; I was excited to taste a more mature version of this corn-heavy Tennessee whisky, since I find the regular releases to be a bit green-tasting.

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But alas. The limited edition release was only made available in Tennessee, with most of it sold from the distillery tasting room. Fortunately for us, a generous soul sent us a sample. I tasted it alongside the No. 12,

Tasting Notes: George Dickel 17-Year-Old Reserve Whisky

Appearance: Almost indistinguishable in color from the No. 12, medium amber with a very slight greenish tint.

Nose: Nice, integrated oak and spice with lovely, bright fruit like red cherry, nectarine, and blackberry. Good mature grain character, like a well-browned multigrain flapjack dotted with salted butter. Noses very well. In comparison, No. 12 has some odd suggestions of multivitamins and artificial grape soda, with a strong cooked vegetable note. 

Palate: Tons of mellow oak, dark caramel, and blood orange. Surprisingly light – intensity is about a four out of 10 – but it still presents a good amount of tannic structure. Finish is long and reminds me of Luden’s Cherry Cough Drops, which I love, plus sweet herbs like anise and mint – verging on menthol/camphor – finishing with beeswax. Unusual and delicious.

Conclusion:

Yum! There’s a bit of a disconnect between the aroma, which is very sweet and red; and the flavor, which is on the green, herbaceous side. It’s leaner and oakier than the 12, but it’s undoubtedly more mature and integrated. If you’re headed to Tennessee, this is worth seeking out.

FINAL SCORE: 88/100