Scenes from the American Whiskey Trail: George Dickel Distilllery (Tullahoma, TN)

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This is the second post in my series on the American Whiskey Trail, which first brings us to the beautiful, quaint town of Tullahoma, Tenn. to the George Dickel Distillery.

George Dickel is one of my favorite stops on the Trail for a few reasons.  One, it’s a gorgeous, tiny little picturesque distillery that is, quite frankly, in the middle of nowhere.  And therein lies the irony, for George Dickel is owned by Diageo, the largest spirits company in the world.  And though Diageo is known for many of its global spirits brands (Tanqueray, Crown Royal, Smirnoff, Don Julio, Ketel One, etc.), it is first and foremost a whiskey company.  That’s because Diageo owns more Scotch whiskys than any other company in the world, with brands like Johnnie Walker, Talisker, Oban, Lagavulin, Dalwhinnie, Cardu, Cragganmore, etc.  Who would expect the world’s largest whiskey company to own the teensiest, quietest little distillery in Tenn?  Certainly not me.

Now, I also love Dickel for this reason:  John Lunn, their Master Distiller. John is a whiskey good ‘ol boy, a pleasure to be around, and overall, a darn good Master Distiller.

On a sidenote, that’s another important thing to note about American Whiskey.  Unlike the winemakers of France and Master Tequileros of Mexico, the Master Distillers of Bourbon Country aren’t eloquent, photogenic, romantic talking heads, they’re good old boys of whiskey.  That’s not to say they’re not all of those things, but one thing they are absolutely not is pretentious.  They’re good boys who like good whiskey.  And chemistry.

Now, on to George Dickel.

George Dickel is a Tennessee Whiskey, which means it contains one key difference from classic bourbons.  That step is called the Lincoln County Process, which is a charcoal filtration step prior to aging that “mellows” the whiskey.  What’s does it do, you may ask, and is it a good thing?  In Tennessee, you’ll get a resounding YES to that question, where they believe it makes the whiskey smoother and more palatable.  On a sidenote, ask a distiller in Kentucky and you’ll get a completely different opinion.

 

Some fun facts on Dickel:

  • Unlike other bourbons and Tennessee Whiskeys, the brand spells the term whiskey without the “e” (as they do in Scotland), because founder George Dickel believed his product was just as good as Scotch.
  • The charcoal used in filtration is created right there at the distillery, using sugar maple wood.
  • Dickel chills the whisky during its charcoal mellowing process–a critical difference between other Tennessee Whiskey.  The process was created by a fateful accident: the distillers discovered that winter whisky tasted better than whisky produced in summer.  And the year-round chilling process was born.

Dickel is available in a few different bottlings, including:

George Dickel No. 8: Their classic offering

George Dickel No. 12: Aged longer, a little bolder, and bottled at 90 proof.

George Dickel Barrel Select: Aged between 10 and 12 years, and bottled at 86 poof.  Each year, Lunn chooses 10 barrels of his liking to create Barrel select.

George Dickel Rye: A relatively new offering (and probably my favorite), bottled at 90 proof.

For more info, visit http://www.dickel.com/.

 

 

 

Scenes from the American Whiskey Trail

As anyone who knows me well knows, I have the privilege of traveling quite a bit for work, and I am lucky enough to visit a handful of the most iconic American Whiskey distilleries each year.  This past May, I visited two of the most iconic Tennessee Distilleries, Jack Daniel’s and George Dickel, and four of the most beautiful distilleries in Kentucky, Maker’s Mark, the Jim Beam American Stillhouse, Wild Turkey and Woodford Reserve.

The American Whiskey Trail is a tourism initiative created by the Distilled Spirits Council (my fantastic company) in partnership with a handful of our large spirits companies.   We’ve helped to string together the major distilleries throughout Kentucky and Tennessee that are open to public.  Though I’m lucky enough to visit for work, I encourage everyone to get down there at some point.

Trail traffic and distillery tourism continues to grow each year, fueled by the ever-growing interest in American Whiskeys.  If you have any interest in traveling the trail, I encourage you to do so–it’s a wonderful way to learn about the category.  But if you’re interested in living vicariously, you can do that too—right  here, though a series I’ll be doing on my visits.

Happy Trails!

(sorry, that was terrible, but I had to)

St. Patrick’s Day Edition: An Irish Hello

Our Irish Whiskey Portfolio

Our Irish Whiskey Portfolio

It’s no secret that Irish Whiskey is a media darling these days.  According to the Distilled Spirits Council (and their PR director, yours truly), Irish Whiskey is the fastest growing spirits category, up nearly 400% in volume since 2002.  Last year, 2.2 million cases were sold here in the States.  It’s important to note that in terms of volume, the category remains small (2.2 million cases sold here versus the 17 million cases of bourbon sold last year), but the growth potential is massive.

As I explained to the Leaguers, the global spirits companies recognize the potential for the category and have made some major investments in Irish Whiskey over the past few years.  Beam bought the iconic Cooley distillery.  Pernod Ricard is in the throws of a massive distillery expansion.  They’re experimenting with new offerings, and are bringing several spirits to the U.S. that have previously only been available in and around Ireland.

So why the growth?  Quite simply, it’s because Irish Whiskey is a lovely little category that’s an easy spirit to consume.  Irish Whiskey is typically distilled three times, unlike its Scotch counterparts, which are distilled twice.   The Irish claim the third distillation creates a smoother, more balanced spirit that’s easier to consume.

Ok, now on to our sampling spirits.

Jameson Irish Whiskey

  • A Irish tasting wouldn’t be complete without Jameson, whose own success story deserves its own post.  Jameson leads Irish category growth, with by far the largest category brand share.  It’s owned by the good folks at Pernod Ricard, and the brand continues to grow rapidly, not just in the States but around the world.
  • Jameson is produced at the Midleton Distillery, located near Cork in Ireland.

Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey

  • A well-balanced Irish blended whiskey.  You may have heard of it by now, Beam (their parent company) just launched its first marketing push around the brand in time for St. Patrick’s Day.  Watch their “Tight Knit” TV spot here.

Connemara Peated Single Malt Irish Whiskey

  • Owned by the good folks at Beam, this peated whiskey is my personal favorite (probably because it reminds me of a perfect blend of a smoky Islay Scotch and a nice smooth Irish whiskey).

Michael Collins Irish Whiskey

  • Owned by my friends at Sidney Frank, Michael Collins was my spirit of choice for our group’s Irish Toddy.  It’s well-balanced and served as an excellent base for our cocktail goodness.

If you’re ever lucky enough to visit, make sure you see as many of Ireland’s distilleries as you can (though in truth, there are only three major distilleries in Ireland, and Bushmills in Northern Ireland).  And until then, see below for a few of my favorite images from my trip there last September.

A very happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Slainte!