George Dickel has a handful of Tennessee Whiskey products, plus Corn and Rye Whiskies. Their core product is George Dickel Classic No. 8 Tennessee Whiskey.
As a reminder, the legal requirements for a spirit to be called “Tennessee Whiskey” are for all intents and purposes identical to the legal requirements to be called Bourbon with two additional: it must be made and aged in the state of Tennessee and it must undergo the “Lincoln County Process” of filtration.
This filtration process involves running the finished spirit through charcoal made from sweet maple wood. George Dickel Classic No. 8 Tennessee Whiskey actually meets three legal definitions: it is a Bourbon, a Tennessee Whiskey, and a Corn Whiskey.
This is because the mash bill is heavy on the Corn — 84% — with the balance equally divided between Rye and malted Barley. It is served at a standard 40% ABV. The result is a smooth, relatively sweet Whiskey with a caramel-corn flavor and not much spice.
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American companies usually spell “Whiskey” with the “e” before the “y.” George Dickel products use the Scottish spelling “Whisky” (without the “e”) on purpose because George thought that his products were just as good as any from Scotland.
All George Dickel products are aged on site (cool and dry), but the George Dickel Rye Whisky is distilled in Indiana, due to the unique specifications Rye’s temperamental character requires.
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George Dickel immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1844, where he started a small retail business in Nashville, Tennessee. He added liquor to his his product lines in 1861, and they became very popular.
Around 1877, John F. Brown and F.E. Cunningham started operating the Cascade Hollow distillery, 70 miles to the south-east. George Dickel was the wholesaler for their Cascade Hollow Whiskey.
Over time, George and his partners bought out the various interests in the distillery, and started producing 100% of their own product.
Things continued to go well until the dark days of Prohibition forced them to shut things down. When prohibition ended, the distillery was sold and the Bourbon renamed in honor of their founder — "George A. Dickel’s Cascade Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky."
Today, the brand and distillery are owned by Diageo. They use “Tennessee” style production methods which means that their spirit is naturally filtered through sweet-maple charcoal, then aged in dark-charred casks.
A transcript for non-audio situations
Hello, and welcome to whisky.com where fine spirits meet. And today, I'm at the George Dickel distillery in Tennessee. And here, some fine Tennessee Whiskey is made. The distillery was founded by George Adam Dickel, a German settler who founded the Cascade Hollow Distillery. And I'm gonna visit this distillery today and show you all about it.
Okay, here's where all the tour start, the visitor center. The visitor center is really nice. It's a vintage style. They have a post office, and old equipment is decorating the room. And what was very nice is you have a display of very old bottles from way, way back, a lot of articles about how the distillery developed and, yeah, what the distillery is all about.
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I'm standing here right next to the statue of George Adam Dickel. This here is the only picture the distillery has of him. And this was made after the obituary in 1894.
The water is very important for the distillery for making the Whiskey. Here in Tennessee and Kentucky, we have a layer of limestone that acts as a filter and filters out the iron in the water. That means you get a Whiskey that is not bitter. If you do a Whiskey from anywhere else on the planet that has water with a lot of iron in it, you get a bitter Whiskey. So that's why we have a lot of Whiskeys in Tennessee and in Kentucky.
This water here comes directly from the source. And the water source lies about three miles in that hill. And the distillery taps the water source directly so they don't have any pollution in it. The water source is the same water source as from back in 1870.
And here you can see that George Dickel Whiskey is really handmade. This is the scale to measure the corn inside this cylinder. And when it's properly scaled, you have a system of levers here that shows you how much you have of the corn. Then somebody opens the valve and lets the corn down into the hammermill. And that leads directly into the mash tun where the mash is built.
On the right side here, we have the malted barley and the rye. They're a bit smaller, because the mash bill consists mostly of corn. So it's all precise.
And instead of computers here, you have a pen and paper. This is what is the IT of George Dickel. Also found a little calculator, so for the pretty hard calculations. The communication is actually done by mouth. So the man from the milling goes down to the mash tun, communicates with then, "What are we producing? How much you need from what?" And that's how they make the mash bill.
So now we're at the mash tubs. The George Dickel distillery has two mash tubs with 9,600 gallons of capacity. And the George Dickel distillery does the sour mash process. So we take something from the distillation part that is left over. So not the spirits, but the leftover part is added to the mash tubs, and that makes it the sour mash. The mash bill consists of 84% corn, 8% rye, and 8% malted barley. The very positive thing about that is that you have enzymes in the malted barley that split up the starches in all the grain and convert it into sugar. Very nice is that they use the malted barley so they have the natural enzymes. Some other distilleries add enzymes in...with additives. So this is the natural and old way of making a good Whiskey.
Okay, now, we're here at the fermenters where the fermentation is carried out. And here the fermenter is being filled with the mash from the mash tub. Two mash tubs are used to fill one of these fermenters. And about 11 pounds or 5.5 kilos of yeast is added into the fermenter to create the Beer for the distillation. Here the distillation is underway. And all the bubbles you see here is the CO2 that is rising to the top. And you can also see here or feel that you have a lot of heat going up.
This is in the process of the fermentation. When the fermentation is carried out, the Beer has an alcohol content of about 8%. That is then the final product before the distillation. This is the final step in the fermentation room. All the fermented Beer is collected into the beer well. And here the Beer is rotated so it doesn't form any layers or does anything funny. And here the stuff is finally pumped into the column still in the next room.
Now, we're at the heart piece of the distillery. This is the column still that distills the Beer into the spirit. The Beer is still at the top, and hot steam comes in from the bottom and heats the Beer and separates the alcohol. This column still is 45 inches in diameter, has a lot of layers in it, and is three stories tall. So it's a really tall column still. The product is then at 115 proof, which is about 57.5 ABV and run through the [inaudible 00:07:41] and is collected in this tank. The distillery does double distillation. This tank here is now filled into the doubler. And the doubler increases the alcohol content to about 130 proof, which is 65 ABV. And the final product is then collected in this tank, now called White Dog or White Whiskey, and that goes into the barrel and then matured in the warehouse.
It wouldn't be Tennessee Whiskey if they wouldn't do charcoal-mellowing. So they take the spirit from the doubler and run it through a layer of charcoal to make the Whiskey more mellow and soft. So you take out some sharp flavor, some acid, some fats. And that makes the Whiskey really mellow and easy to drink. So what they do is they have a plate inside a tank, then they put a blanket on it and 15 feet of charcoal, that is about 5 meters of charcoal, and fill in the Whiskey to have it charcoal-mellowed.
The charcoal is produced here on site on the distillery. The distillery gets the regional sugar maple wood in form of logs through the distillery. They cut it into these staves here, put it in a big block, and set it on fire. That burns for a couple of hours until we have the charcoal. Then they spray water on it and hose it down so it doesn't burn to ash. And during that time, the whole tower collapses and also breaks down, already breaks down. And you have the little bits that we saw earlier. After that, we have the charcoal that is used in the process you saw earlier.
This is one of these tanks for the charcoal-mellowing. And the specialty about the George Dickel distillery is the chilled charcoal mellowing. So distillery chills the Whiskey down to a low temperature and then fills it into the tanks. You can already feel the Whiskey, because, at the bottom where the whiskey starts here, the tank is really cold. The process takes very long time. It's actually sitting in there for 7 to 10 days to get out all of the unwanted flavors.
After the charcoal mellowing, you fill the Whiskey into casks. These are new American white oak casks with the number four char. The lid has a number two char, which is a very deep charring. So there's a lot of charcoal inside the casks and matures the Whiskey very well. They're filled here at two hands filling stations. And then they are rolled off outside and sent to the warehouses for maturation.
After filling the barrel, we end up here in the warehouse. George Dickel is dedicated to handcrafting the Whiskey. That's why they label the casks not by bar code, but they still label it just with writing on the content of the cask. First line is the distillery, then comes the town and the state, also some other regulation, and the last line is the date. So we have lot number. And the next number is 08. That's 2008. J stands for the 10th month that is October, and the 31st is the day. So it's 31st of October, 2008, when this barrel was filled.
We have a one-story warehouse, means that we only have six barrels stacked on top of each other. And that means we don't need warehouse rotation. This warehouse is not heated or cooled in any way. Except in the winter, they do a bit of heating to prevent the sprinkler system from freezing. It's not affecting the Whiskey, but just for maintenance.
The next thing is the leakage in the barrels. Here we see a bit of leakage. This is a, yeah, rather unimportant leakage because it caramelizes over and covers the leakage. If we have worse leakage than that, then they use small pieces of cedar wood. And they just punch it in and seal the hole with it. The lids, if they are broken, then they just replace it, take out the barrel, bring it to the cooper, and he replaces the lids.
So the warehouse is surprisingly cool. And you have a lot of smell of great Tennessee Whiskey. And it is pretty big. But compared to the output, we have very many casks. The output of the George Dickel distillery is pretty low. It's all handmade and handcrafted and high quality. So, yeah, that was it from the production of The George Dickel distillery.