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Stogie Spirits: George Dickel Tennessee Whisky No. 12

22 Jul 2010

If you drive 90 minutes east on I-24 from Nashville, you’ll find yourself in a sleepy corner of Tennessee that’s home to George A. Dickel & Co., the self-proclaimed purveyor of “the finest quality sippin’ whisky.”

George Dickel No. 12The eponymous company was founded when George Dickel, a successful merchant from Nashville, established a distillery six miles northeast of Tullahoma in 1870. He called his product “whisky” instead of “whiskey” because, according to the Dickel website, it was “as smooth as the finest scotch” and decided to drop the “e” as a nod to the scotch whisky tradition.

George passed away before the turn of the 20th century, and his legacy fell on hard times as state and federal prohibition laws forced the distillery to close its doors. Then, nearly 40 years later, master distiller Ralph Dupps rebuilt the operation on 850 acres of land near the original distillery site. That’s where George Dickel Tennessee Whisky is made to this day, presently under the direction on master distiller John Lunn. Today’s distillery production is informed by manuscripts written by George Dickel over 130 years ago. The recipe includes a secret mash of corn, barley, and rye, all ground on-site without preservatives or dyes.

After cooling the mash in tubs of spring water, a unique strain of yeast is used in the fermentation process—“one of the primary reasons that George Dickel Tennessee Whisky has such a distinct and memorable taste,” according to the website. It undergoes double distillation and is filtered through sugar maple charcoal before being aged in new, charred American white oak barrels.

The No. 8 version of George Dickel has been aged for eight years, while the No. 12 version is—you guessed it—12 years old. The latter’s bright amber hue is almost orange in the glass. Great legs. The sweet, prickly nose sports a fragrance of citrus, vanilla, oak, syrup, and spice.

The first taste of Geoge Dickel No. 12 goes down warm and spicy with a finish that’s fiery in the belly and soft on the palate. This isn’t the sort of spirit you can just dive into at room temperature. A few evaporated ice cubes and a couple warm-up sips help bring out the flavors of honey, walnut, and brown sugar. Tasty yet lacking in the sort of complexity that I’ve come to expect from a sipping spirit.

If a top bourbon is a steak dinner, this $20-25 whisky is a bacon cheeseburger. And there ain’t nothing wrong with a bacon cheeseburger every once in awhile. I’ll keep it on hand for occasional sipping, mixing, or for guests who want to try something off the beaten paths of Kentucky.

And when I break out the Dickel, I’ll pair it with a sub-$6 medium-bodied cigar. George Dickel, after all, strikes me as the kind of man who wasn’t too pretentious about his libations or his smokes.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

8 Responses to “Stogie Spirits: George Dickel Tennessee Whisky No. 12”

  1. dmjones Thursday, July 22, 2010 at 2:44 am #

    Correction on the first paragraph: should be I-24, not I-94.

    Otherwise, great article, Patrick. I have had Dickel's regular No. 8 several times and prefer it as a sippin' whisky to Jack Daniels…the problem I had when I lived in California was finding it. Now that I live in Tennessee, that's not a problem anymore! One of these days I'm going to get to that distillery for a tour, too. Actually, maybe I can do it Saturday on my way home from Nashville…something to think about!

  2. Patrick A Thursday, July 22, 2010 at 3:02 am #

    Thanks for catching my error. Not sure how I confused a "2" with a "9" but the correction has been made.

  3. Vato Cigars Friday, July 23, 2010 at 5:55 am #

    One of my favorite drinks is George Dickel with a splash of Apple Cider, I call it a “Dick N Cider”!

  4. keith Saturday, July 24, 2010 at 6:57 am #

    IMO, Dickel's No. 12 is much better than Jack. I also think it's more like a NY strip than a bacon cheeseburger. But, then, I'm not a huge bourbon fan anyway.

  5. dmjones1009 Friday, July 30, 2010 at 10:06 am #

    I was able to take a trip to the Dickel Distillery last weekend and you can read all about it (along with pictures) at the Tiki Bar today:

    Thanks, Patrick, for inspiring me to take the side-trip on the way home from Nashville…truly a fun place to visit.

  6. J White Saturday, March 12, 2011 at 12:36 am #

    Is there anything similer to this in scotch or bourbon? I like the buttery oily corn. But hate big oaky bourbons i have bought. simply buying just oaky bourbons (e.g e craig 12, etc, etc) to replicate this dickel drink. also attemping in scotch. I also noted there's a chew and outstanding balance with the sour, corn, etc at play. and maybe a tobacco aroma too i loved. so much wasted.

  7. J White Saturday, March 12, 2011 at 5:30 am #

    where can I buy this in brisbane Australia? I ordered the 12 from uk over seas and I though the quality was off. Or maybe it was over aged in bad way.
    Is there any online shop the ships to Austrailia. no usa does. I am after no 8 as I dont think no 12 is very good at moment. I have wasted countless bottles at local store. Might as well get something a want.

  8. Clive Gains Saturday, March 12, 2011 at 10:46 pm #

    My londan import od Dickel with diago sticka did not like. bad batch or quality drop or londan got crap stuff.

    My old Dickel. No diago sticker tasted spot on dickel taste profile. Should I import another Dickel with londan and diago stickewr on it??? What about germany or japan?