"There are only three laws [of distilling success]:
Quality, quality, quality." - Ralfy Mitchell
The first review I attempted in the woods was George Dickel Number 12, a true Tennessee whiskey. In the whole of Tennessee there are only four legal distillers: Jack Daniels, George Dickel, Collier and McKeel, and Benjamin Prichard. Of the four, Jack Daniels, owned by Brown-Forman of Louisville, Kentucky, not surprisingly overshadows the other three in production, due to it being the number one selling whiskey in the United States. But besides the incredible output of Jack Daniels, the four Tennessee distillers have more in common than they are distinct. They are all, by law, Tennessee whiskey. And as the great Ralfy Mitchell sums it up in his whiskey review of George Dickel Number 12, “in my view Tennessee whiskeys are bourbon, but before their bourbon, their Tennessee whiskey.”
Legally established under NAFTA, Tennessee whiskey is “a straight Bourbon Whiskey authorized to be produced in the state of Tennessee.” Why is this important? Tennessee whiskey usually has a grain mashbill in the same range as most bourbons, but what differentiates Tennessee whiskeys from bourbons, other than the state they are all born in, is the utilization of maple charcoal filtration prior to bottling. This maple charcoal filtration leaches out some of the fusel oils and impurities, claimed by the distillers to make the whiskey “smoother.” And perhaps most important, this method undeniably provides the whiskey with a sweet maple sugar taste, giving a unique and important stamp to identify Tennessee whiskey.
Today I’ll be reviewing George Dickel Superior Number 12 Brand. Somewhat of a cult Tennessee whiskey and based in the city of Tullahoma, George Dickel is presently owned by Diageo. Dickel is much considered the “other” Tennessee whiskey compared to that of the Jack Daniels giant. Besides the obvious Scottish spelling of whisky to Jack Daniels using an “e,” Dickel chills the whisk(e)y down before transferring it into the barrel. This purifies the whisky by allowing the vegetal composition from the grains to solidify for the charcoal to catch.
George Dickel Superior No. 12 Review:
Price: Around $19.99 for a 750ml bottle.
Packaging/Label: Somewhat typical old-school American whiskey label with a good amount of legend to peruse. I actually think the bottle is a really good representation of the whiskey, in that it is an unassuming, neat and clean bottle with an inexpensive screw top, signifying quality without hubris.
Alcohol Content: 45% alcohol by volume, 90 proof.
Color: Soft bullion.
Tasting: Refined corn, but not an overly sweet corn. This is nothing which will knock you over. Honey – dark forest honey and pepper. Not necessarily a green whiskey, but young no doubt, which speaks to the four years it’s in the barrel. Floral and perfume – old school tones, which make me think of something like a bed and breakfast in a small town. Maple-wood vanilla and fire grilled pineapple. Dried apricots and fruit, almost a trial-mix aroma.
Flavor: The sweetness of the corn becomes pronounced in the palette which then develops into a nice brown sugar and butter. Very much like biting into a nicely seasoned corn on the cob. The pepper note is less pronounced and yet there are some real flavorful spices going on. They are herbal in nature, lining up with the perfume/popery notes in the nose. No wood spices. The noticeable buttered corn throughout develops on the end palette into a wonderful vinegar and fruity flavor and texture.
Water: Water can be added, though I found not overly necessary. Lessons the sweet corn flavor and increases the fruit. Salt and vinegar which dies away in the finish.
Conclusion: This is an outstanding whiskey for the price range. In the opinion of Jason Pyle of the Sour Mash Manifesto, he explains this is possibly one of the top three whiskeys for its price range in the world! The nose is a bit light but if you’re into bourbon and the corn based spirits then I defiantly encourage and recommend you pick this up. It’s something you can drink by yourself, but not feel guilty for letting your less experienced friends drink it without pause.