George Dickel is a Diageo brand, like Bulleit, and it is a Tennessee whiskey. Which is to say it is bourbon run through the “Lincoln County process”, i.e it is filtered through charcoal after distillation. There is also a George Dickel rye, but that’s actually made by MGP in Indiana, though also filtered through charcoal. The bourbon is, as far as I know, made entirely in Tennessee.
Private barrels of George Dickel began to be made available to various stores around the country last year. Some released 9 yo barrels and some released 14 yo barrels. I believe all the 9 yo barrels were at one strength and all the 14 yo’s at another. I”ll be reviewing a 14 yo from the venerable Park Avenue Liquor in Manhattan soon, but first up is this 9 yo from the upstart Twin Cities store, Ace Spirits (owned by the same people behind Merwin’s). It’s never entirely clear how extensive the process for barrel selection by stores is—I don’t know if they picked this from a broad or narrow range of samples; I’m assuming, of course, that no one actually went down to the distillery’s warehouses and selected from the barrels aging there. (The distillery, by the way, is Cascade Hollow—George Dickel is a brand name.) But if the bourbon’s good, who the hell cares what the selection process was?
George Dickel 9 (51.5%; bottled for Ace Spirits in 2014; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: A big wave of caramel and corn sweetness. Some pine below that and after a while there’s a bit of dried orange peel and some toffee. With a drop of water those tart notes from the palate show up on the nose as well but they bother me less here. The grain is more evident too now.
Palate: Quite hot to start. Once my tongue adjusts to the bite it’s very much as initially advertised by the nose. On subsequent sips the rye notes are more evident and it also gets pretty sour (almost vinegary—like apple cider vinegar) and then spicy—but it’s the sourness that’s dominant. Better balance with water—the sharp vinegary notes moving closer to the tartness of tart apples (I’m not saying it tastes like apple)—but it’s still a little too tart/sour for me.
Finish: Long. Clove and cinnamon at the very end (maybe a hint of nutmeg too). Water takes the tartness into the finish as well. Something leafy at the end too now.
Comments: I believe Dickel’s bourbon mashbill is very low in rye but I seemed to detect more rye character here than would be suggested by that. I quite liked the nose, didn’t care overmuch for the sourness on the palate. Might be good with vermouth but do you really want to put a >$45 bourbon in a Manhattan? If I had more I would drink it all with water. Decent bourbon, on the whole, but I can’t see paying a premium for this over the regular Dickel, leave alone many others that punch way above their price weight.
Rating: 82 points.
Thanks to Florin for the sample!
It’s great that you got to one of our barrels, though I wish you had selected one we are a bit more proud of. Nonetheless… Some comments. First, we are Ace Spirits, not Ace Liquors (nitpicky, sorry). The Dickel selection process, like most, entails receiving three to four barrel samples (in this case three) and figuring out if we want one, all or none. While you are correct, this is MGP juice, it’s interesting to note that the only way to get Dickel as a nine year product is through a barrel program. This is our second Dickel barrel selection and we thought it would be fun to invite customers to join in the selection process. The samples were all pretty similar for this batch, so selection wasn’t as difficult as our Four Roses barrels (which have 10 variants).
When I first brought the first barrel of Dickel 9 into the shop I was nervous and skeptical. The flavor profile was not what I would typically gravitate towards and at the time it was the most expensive bottle we’d ever done as a barrel selection. What caused me to make the leap of faith was the exclusive nature of the release- that you can only get the 9 year product through a barrel program. Customers responded quite positively and we sold through the first barrel quickly. As I often say, there is something for everyone and just because I don’t absolutely love it doesn’t mean you won’t.
If you get a chance, try our Willet, Smooth Ambler, Four Roses or Henry McKenna barrels. I can arrange for samples if you’d like.
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Hi Louis–thanks for writing in. Sorry about the carelessness with your store’s name—I’ll fix that right away.
This is MGP distiled? I thought only their rye was from MGP. Thanks as well for the sample offers on your other barrels—unfortunately, I don’t accept samples etc. from stores or distillers; but I’m sure I’ll get to taste some of them eventually through the whisky geek network.
No one says for sure, but we suspect and have been led to believe that it’s MGP. As for the samples, let it be known that you have turned down free whiskey, but then again, as the saying goes- nothing’s free.
“though I wish you had selected one we are a bit more proud of” – if they’d label the ones which they are ashamed of, they be easier to avoid.
Jeff, I’m inclined to read Louis’ comment more charitably. I think all he’s saying is that he thinks they’ve since selected ones he personally likes more; and that they carried this one because their previous Dickel barrel, which he also didn’t personally care for overmuch sold and was liked so well. It probably could have been phrased more gracefully but I think the honesty is preferable to the attitude of retailers who insist that every single thing they sell is the best ever.
He said that he doesn’t personally like this whiskey as much and that customers were invited to participate in the selection (so it wasn’t his own selection, really). I think he might also be hinting that he had to choose from the three samples he was given and perhaps he thought there would be a greater variety within the 3–perhaps all 3 did not appeal to him and he or his customers chose one so that they would have the option of having any 9yr Dickel for his customers who would be interested.
Like MAO said, honesty is preferred, and I don’t think a liquor store should necessarily limit their selections to the personal tastes of a single person. So although perhaps he’s not as “proud” of this selection, it seems there’s a demand for it. I don’t know how many other MN stores have decided to order a barrel from Dickel, but I’m sure the locals are happy for the opportunity to try some instead of being limited to the standard releases only.
Fair point, but the phrasing was “we are a bit more proud of” , which I took to speaking for the business, not just one person’s tastes (as per the reponse from Louis, below, about the barrel of Jack Daniels, which “we will likely buy”, but “this isn’t something I would bring home”).
Yeah, good point. Anyway, there are many ways to interpret that sentence. Perhaps every liquor store has a barrel of Dickel now and he’s a bit more proud of some rare single barrel of scotch from a closed distillery that he personally hunted down?
Sorry for the delayed response- crazy days. I think the later comments sum up what I was trying to get at. Sometimes I pick barrels not because I would like them, but because I know it appeals to people. At some point we will likely buy a barrel of Jack Daniels. Now this isn’t something I would bring home, but I know it would sell and I know how to select a good barrel even from narrow banded selections. We have the Dickel open on the tasting shelf and most people try it before they buy it so they know exactly what they are getting. The single barrels for us offer either a unique expression, a good value or impressive quality. Hopefully all. The only barrel I’m not proud of currently (and it was simply a barrel buy- we didn’t taste it prior) is the Pike Street. I personally hate it, but we have customers taste it and say they LOVE what I would consider to be an awful, green whiskey. Again, different strokes. So that would be on the far end of the continuum for me, the Dickel being in the middle. We have a Tomatin barrel that for the price point and the fact that Scotch barrel programs are so hard to come by- it is unique and attractive, but again, I didn’t bring a bottle home. 1792 is solid for the price. Most of our best stuff sells out quickly. Our Willet barrels (one more coming) were gone fast, our Evan Williams and Henry McKenna barrels were INCREDIBLE. barrel programs for the latter two have since been discontinued. We really like our Four Roses and Smooth Ambler barrels. And we have four FEW barrels coming at cask strength as well as a few surprises!
Anyhoo, long winded response to a relatively simple question. I’m not necessarily buying for myself, I’m buying for my customers.
“sour” “tart” “leafy” taken together sound like a common descriptor/note in Dickel reviews: “vitamin” or a vitamin-y, aspirin-y type note. Personally I like it, as it’s quite different than most bourbons or other Tennessee whiskies in my experience.
Louis is throwing a bomb here, but I’m afraid he is mistaken. I don’t have the bottle anymore, but similar bottles on the web show clearly on the label “Distilled in Cascade Hollows, TN”. Louis may be confusing the GD rye (MGP as MAO states) with the bourbon/TN whisky. There was nothing in the flavor to make me suspect it was MGP, and everything to point towards GD. Here are my brief notes:
2.5-3* The usual George Dickel flavor profile, with maple syrup and penicillin bitterness. Generally simple flavors, with a strong wood component – which was a bit much for me. Would not buy again.
I’ll echo what others have said–this is definitely distilled, aged, and bottled at the distillery in Tennessee. Dickel is over 80% corn, I believe, and has a honey sweetness but I find that it’s often tamed by a sawdust note or an aspirin/vitamin tablet/metallic bitterness. I like it, and it’s one of my favorites.
I’ve tasted a few of the 9yr Private Barrels, and have had some I did not like at all. Some were over woody and sour for me too, but I’ve also had a couple that were good. And I’ve had one of the 14yr ones which was also good. I think there is a lot of variability in their single barrel program and the flavor profile really depends on the selection.
On the other hand, of their standard line-up, the No. 12 for about $19-$23 is one of my favorite values. It has a touch of the sawdust/vitamin note, but less of it and less sourness, with more honeyed sweetness.