Type: Tennessee Whiskey
Age: 9 Years Old
George Dickel is the “other” Tennessee whiskey – the one that’s not Jack Daniels.
This 9 year-old selection is rich and sweet. Hugely sweet, even. It’s also remarkably smooth. I can imagine someone drinking it and thinking, “This isn’t complex or interesting,” but he’d be wrong. Well, with the proverbial gun pressed to my temple I admit that it’s not complex, but I don’t care. Because the integration of sweetness and barrel influence, and the near-absence of alcohol bite even at 51.5% ABV is just as compelling as complexity. And its unshakeable drinkability – whether neat, over ice, or with water – is wonderful. Doesn’t it sound good to you? Perhaps on an evening when you’re not looking to be whacked in the mouth with peat and smoke, or challenged by a 72% ABV, or a rye-heavy bourbon? Of course it does. Surrender and take a tickle of the Dickel. Yesss… everything’s better now.
Oh, you’re still unconvinced by the charms of a straightforward whiskey? Give me another chance to sway you. The essential beauty of this 9 year-old Dickel is that it asks nothing of you, and gives so much. You don’t have to pay attention while you’re drinking it, even taken neat at 51.5% ABV. It just meanders around your teeth and warms its way down your throat while you enjoy a conversation or a book. And then every few minutes this whiskey quietly surfaces in your consciousness, like a shark fin in the middle of the Atlantic, and suddenly you realize you’re enjoying the hell out of it. It’s mature and sweet, with just enough wood and sting to remain satisfying rather than boring. It certainly doesn’t taste like anything else on the market, either.
But – and it’s a big one – the flavor that makes this whiskey so unique may also be off-putting to some. I classify it as a gravelly or minerally taste that’s evident in all the modern Dickels I’ve tasted. It’s close to the metallic tang of a chewable Flintstones vitamin tablet, for those of you whose taste memories reach back well into the last century. I dig it. Then again, I tried to eat handfuls of Flintstones vitamins when I was a kid. The taste is also similar to the gravelly funk in Rolling Rock beer back when it was brewed in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. Again, something I quite liked, but the flavor may offend those of you less drawn to the taste of, well, rocks. It’s definitely unique to Dickel, so there’s only one way to find out.
Other issues? Putting aside the matter of complexity, which we’ve already established as overrated in the context of this whiskey? Well, it lacks any trace of a mouthfeel – a real disappointment in a drink that tastes this rich. (If I had to guess, I’d blame chill-filtration for the total absence of any nice, oily texture. But that seems to be a point of pride with Dickel, as it’s proudly advertised on the label. This at a time when many “enthusiast bottlings” are released without chill-filtration, to preserve flavor and mouthfeel. Go figure.) Look, the nose is sweet, the taste is sweet and a little gravelly, and the finish is sweetness, with a bit of gravel and woody dryness. Bada bing, bada boom, that’s it. I think it’s terrific.