George Dickel

Review: George Dickel Tabasco Barrel Finish

IMG_3748New from Cascade Hollow is, well, something I never thought I’d see – a whisky finished in ex-Tabasco barrels.  Yes, that Tabasco.

Let me take a step back here, this not actually a whisky, as it’s only 70 proof.  A whisky needs to be at least 80 proof to hold that moniker.

We know some Tennessee whisky was aged in Tabasco barrels for 30 days, then blended with “essence of Tabasco”, otherwise known as distilled Tabasco sauce.

If you already didn’t know, Tabasco barrels begin as ex-bourbon barrels.  There’s a connection between the two, but those barrels don’t impart any whiskey flavors to the pepper sauce.

Let’s be honest, as I mention in my Youtube review below, George Dickel Tabasco Barrel Finish isn’t meant to be studied in a Glencairn glass, meticulously dissecting aromas and flavors.  It’s meant to be a fun shot, or used in a cocktail.  A Bloody Mary comes to mind.

I love Tabasco as much as the next person.  It’s been a staple on my dining room just about my entire life.  But Tabasco and whiskey together?  Actually, it’s not bad.

On the nose, that lovely peppery and aromatic Tabasco essence leads, followed by feint hints of caramel and vanilla.  Tabasco proves to be dominant here, but not as much as you’d think on the palate.  Here, the famous pepper sauce adds an unexpected herbal sweetness, that, when put together with the whisky’s own caramel notes, provide a wonderful counterbalance to the peppery spice that ramps up.  I can pick out a touch of Dickel’s minerality.  The finish stays in the sweet and spicy realm with a little bit of a kick.

My takeaway here is this – George Dickel Tabasco Barrel Finish is unexpectedly nice, but don’t buy this to sip on neat in a Glencairn glass as you would do with whisky.  It’s not made for that.

As for me, I won’t reach for this everyday.  In fact, it’s going straight into my ‘mixers shelf.’  A shot of Hot Dickel, as it’s called, might be just the thing at a BBQ this summer.  I bet it’ll pair nicely with some smoked ribs as a shot, in a cocktail, or as part of a marinade.  $24.99

Thanks to George Dickel for the sample.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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George Dickel Distillery Reserve 17-Year-Old Whisky Review

Photo courtesy of George Dickel

Photo courtesy of George Dickel

Of all of Diageo’s American whiskies, George Dickel stands as my personal favorite.  Dickel’s entire lineup is good, but I prefer their No. 12 and both of their hand selected barrels – 9 & 14-year-old whiskies.  Sadly, the latter expression isn’t available anymore.  Let’s bring this one back, please!

Last year I was invited to a private tour of the Dickel distillery, and it cemented my appreciation for the way Master Distiller Allisa Henley and company make their whiskey.

Last year at Tales of the Cocktail, I had a chance to sample a barrel proof whisky from a bottle that Henley brought with her.  This bottle had a handwritten label and was clearly from the distillery.  Turns out it was 17-year-old George Dickel.  It was fantastic.  I waited and waited for some sort of official release.  Almost a year later, the news comes out: George Dickel is releasing a 17-year-old whisky.  There’s not a lot, as Dickel barrels usually never live past 14 years.  In fact, this whisky is bottled in 375ml bottles and is only available at the distillery (and a few select Tennessee retailers).  Suggested price is $75.

The nose is fuller than expected, given that this is an 87 proof whisky.  Notes of dried, toasted sweet corn, minerals, oak and some sort of burnt sugar.  Dark caramel marks the entry, though it’s not too sweet.  A bit of spice and slightly bitter tannins hit the mid-palate, alongside creamy vanilla and hints of wet stone (I know, I know… but that’s what it reminds me of).  Those oak tannins really take hold going into the finish, but not overly so.  The medium finish leaves behind notes of anise and caramel.

This older expression of Dickel carries the distillery profile well, while integrating a rich oak component.  I like it.  A lot.  But not as much as I enjoy their 14-year-old hand selected barrel.  I think that expression is George Dickel at it’s peak – rich, sweet, and complex.  Dickel 17-year-old is quite good, but it does lean on the oakier side of things which throws the balance slightly off.  However, I wouldn’t call it overly oaked.  If you have access to the distillery in the very near future, stop by and pick up a bottle.  While you’re there, take the tour.  It’s a great place to visit.


Thanks to George Dickel and Diageo for the sample.  As always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

My Favorite Whiskies of 2015

Spirits-based websites and blogs generally post a Top 10 list or Holiday Gift Guide at the end of the year.   I did the same in 2014, but this year I’m changing things up a bit.  Reflecting back on the past year, I came up with a listing of whiskies that I not only thoroughly enjoyed, but ones that I found were memorable.  These cover both American and Scotch whiskies, regular offerings and limited editions.

Except for the top spot, these are listed in no particular order.

The year is not over yet.  I’ve got some potentially incredible whiskies waiting to be tasted.  Who knows if they’ll make this humble blogger’s list of favorite whiskies of 2016.  Until then, Sláinte!

What’s the best whiskey you’ve tasted this year?