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Whiskymag 137 July _Aug 2016

George Dickel Tennessee Whisky

Distillery History Tasting Notes

George Dickel The Man

George A. Dickel, of German decent, was a successful merchant living in Nashville when he visited Tullahoma with his wife Augusta in 1867.

 

It was in Cascade Hollow that George Dickel dreamed of creating the finest, smoothest sippin’ whisky in the United States. In 1870, Dickel’s dream came true, and a company, which bore his name, was opened at Cascade Hollow, Tennessee on the Cascade Creek (located between Chattanooga and Nashville, six miles northeast of Tullahoma).

 

George A. Dickel discovered that whisky made during the winter was smoother than whisky made in the summer. So, George Dickel is the only Tennessee whisky to chill the whisky before it goes into the charcoal mellowing vats. This filters out the oils and fatty acids inherent in most whisky products.

 

It was also at this time that George declared that because his whisky was as smooth as the finest scotch, he would always spell the “whiskey” in George Dickel Tennessee Whisky without an “e”, keeping with the Scotch whisky tradition.

 

After George Dickel’s death in 1894 at the age of 76, his wife Augusta managed the whisky business with her relatives, the Schwabs. George and Augusta had no heirs, however the whisky production continued under the Schwabs’ management.

 

Prohibition Forced Distillery Doors Closed

In 1910, 10 years before national Prohibition, Tennessee Prohibition began, and distillers were given one year to dismantle their operations. At this time, the George Dickel Distillery was closed and production was moved from Cascade Hollow to Hopkinsville, Kentucky.

 

In 1919, Prohibition became a federal law, and the Hopkinsville distillery also was abandoned. Meanwhile, the old Tullahoma distillery fell into disrepair. There would be no George Dickel Tennessee Whisky produced for nearly four decades.

 

Ralph Dupps Recreates Original Distillery

In 1958, Master Distiller Ralph Dupps’ labour of love motivated him to rebuild the George Dickel Distillery. The task entailed acquiring 850 acres of land about three-quarters of a mile from the original Cascade Hollow site.

 

To further ensure the authenticity of the whisky, Mr. Dupps obtained George Dickel’s original manuscripts detailing the recipe and process for making George Dickel Tennessee Whisky.

 

Ralph Dupps is responsible for bringing Dickel back to its birthplace and continuing George Dickel’s dream. He ensured that George Dickel No.12 and No.8 are crafted with the same care today as used during the era of George Dickel more that 130 years ago.

 

"I'm proud to say that more and more discriminating drinkers are discovering Dickel’s superior qualities in their search for the finest whisky." -- Ralph Dupps

 

The Tradition Continues

Today Master Distiller John Lunn is continuing the handmade process that was set forth by George Dickel and  by Ralph Dupps.

The Making of George Dickel Whisky

Step 1. Grain Selection & Milling

Whiskey can only be as good as the ingredients used to make it. That's why at George Dickel they are careful to select only the finest all natural grains. Dickel is made from a secret mash of corn, barley and rye  The grains are ground at the distillery before being cooked.

 

Step 2. Mash Tubs

After the grains are finely ground, they are colled in mash tubs in pure spring water from Cascade Spring. In fact, the source of Cascade Spring is located about one-half mile up the road from the distillery

 

First, the corn is cooked alone to 212 degrees F and cooled to 180 degrees F. Then, the rye is added and the mixture is cooked again, producing a starchy liquid called mash. The distillery has two of these mash tubs.

 

The corn/rye mash is cooled to 145 degrees F and malted barley is added to naturally convert the starchy mash into sweet mash.

 

The mash is then soured by added spent beer. Spent beer is the portion of fermented mash that is a by-product of leftover of the previous day's double-distillation process. Adding back the spent beer is what is termed the sour mash process. This process helps maintain consistency from batch to batch.

 

Step 3. Fermenting Vats

From the mash tubs, the sour mash is pumped into a fermentation vat. The George Dickel distillery has nine of these vats.

 

Here, the yeast is added to activate the fermentation process. Dickel uses a strain of yeast unique from all other whiskeys, which is one of the primary reasons that George Dickel Tennessee Whisky has such a distinct and memorable taste.

 

The yeast converts the mash's natural sugars into alcohol producing a bubbling golden vat of fermenting mash. This process takes three to four days depending on weather conditions and at what temperature the fermentation vat was filled.

 

Once the fermentation process is complete the mash contains about 6% alcohol by volume and is referred to as distiller's beer

 

Step 4. Double Distillation

From the fermenting vats the distiller's beer is pumped into the stillhouse where it is distilled not once, but twice.

 

The first still in the process is called a column or beer still. This still is over three stories tall and separates whiskey from beer using live steam. Because alcohol has a lower boiling point than water, it will separate from the water and the grain solid components of the distiller's beer.

 

The whiskey is distilled a second time in a pot-still doubler. Here, captured steam re-vaporizes the now clear, mellow whiskey into a lighter, purer tasting liquid. At this point, Master Distiller Dave Backus inspects each batch for excellence in taste and clarity.

 

Step 5. Charcoal Mellowing

The process of charcoal mellowing is the difference between Tennessee whiskey and bourbon whiskey. In this process, the double-distilled whiskey is filtered through sugar maple charcoal.

 

Dickel's mellowing process is unique in that it is chilled prior to the filtration process. This process of chilling the whiskey resulted from George discovering that the batches of whiskey he tasted during the winter were noticeably smoother than those he tasted during warmer weather. He called this process chill mellowing, and today every drop of George Dickel is chilled to exacting specifications.

 

The first step in the mellowing process is selecting and cutting sugar maple trees. Trees are cut in the winter months when the sugar maple's rich flavour is stored in the trunk of the tree.

 

The trunks are allowed to season and cut into2" x 4' strips at the George Dickel sawmill. These strips are hand-stacked and set ablaze in the open air. The Dickel distillery, because of its small size, is the only Tennessee whiskey distillery allowed to burn sugar maple in the open air. This process allows the smoke's impurities to escape from the resulting hard charcoal.

 

The hard maple charcoal is crushed by hand and packed into one of six mellowing vats located at the Dickel distillery. Ten feet of charcoal is packed into each vat. Two virgin wool blankets are placed on the top and bottom of the charcoal. The top blanket ensures that the newly chilled whiskey uniformly reaches into the vat, while the bottom blanket keeps the charcoal from escaping as the whiskey leaves the vat.

 

The entire chill charcoal mellowing process takes seven to ten days to complete, and though this extra process is time-consuming and expensive, the result is the smoothest, driest, most mellow Tennessee whiskey made.

 

Step 6. Barrel Aging

Following the mellowing process, the whiskey is ready for the final step - aging.

 

George Dickel Whisky is aged in new, charred American white oak barrels. The interior of the barrel is charred to caramelize the wood sugars, forming a layer of flavour called The Red Layer.

 

During the warm summer months the whiskey expands and during the cold winter months the whiskey contracts, forcing the whiskey to slowly move in and out of the wood, all the while giving the whiskey its colour and rich flavour. Nowhere during the process do they add colour or flavours. The process is all natural!

 

Full barrels are aged just up the hill from the distillery in the industry's only single-storied iron-clad warehouses, for up to 12 long years.

Geordge Dickel

1950 Cascade Hollow Rd.

Normandy, TN 37360

 

Phone: 931-857-3124

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