The Scotch Life: The Best Cure for Jetlag? Whisky.

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What’s the best cure for jetlag?  SCOTCH.  That was the first thing we learned when stepping off the plane, when we were transported to Diageo’s newest facility in the Highlands, the Diageo Whisky Archive at Menstrie.  Simply put: when we walked into this room, with bottles stacked as high as the library’s 18-foot ceiling, it completely slipped my mind that I was running on a time change.

With our jetlag promptly cured and forgotten, we spent some time culling through hundreds of glass cases jam packed with spirits bottles, some dating back hundreds of years.  It was there that we had a small whisky primer, delivered by Nick Morgan of Diageo.

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From there, we toured Cambus, Diageo’s cooperage, to get a bit of an overview on the barrel making process.  While a cooperage is essentially a working factory (with none of the sex appeal of the Scotch distilleries, warehouses, or their glamorous visitor centers), it does help demonstrate how much care and attention goes into the entire whisky-making process; as we know with American Whiskey, the aging process is just as important at the distilling process, and a well-produced barrel is of paramount importance.

Here’s what we learned from Diageo: as mentioned previously, the overwhelming volume in the Scotch Whisky category globally comes from blended Scotch Whisky sales.  Yes, the single malts that are the building blocks for these blends are fantastic on their own (each with a distinct flavor profile and character), but they are fundamentally ingredients for blends.

Second, the industry is just as much about technological innovation as it is about upholding the traditional whisky styles that have been perfected over hundreds of years.

The most obvious takeaway, however, was the sheer magnitude of the Diageo portfolio.  At its core, Diageo is a whisky company, and owns around 30 distilleries in Scotland.

 

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/.