And here I am again, with a follow up whiskey from the “other” Tennessee distillery... Oh wait, this is a rye whiskey… and then again, it isn’t even a rye made in Tennessee. In fact it isn’t even made by Dickel, but rather it’s produced by Midwest Grain Products Inc. (MGPI). So what, do you ask, is going on? Ok, ok. I’ll stop with the rant before I go too far. For one thing, it isn’t entirely fair that I make such a big deal about this. Sourcing product from other distilleries go on all over the country, if not all over the world. But in the United States, as many have talked about before, something entirely different is happening. So lets first take a step back and explain some background.
First the whole MGPI thing. As much as the subject annoys me rather than anything else these days, I’ll briefly go over what it’s all about. Midwest Grain Products, more well known by their former name Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana (LDI), is a giant monster distillery over the border from Kentucky. Like many distilleries in Scotland, they don’t sell to the public, but rather to other whiskey labels. Before the recent boom of rye whiskey in America, they made one of the smartest decisions in the world by producing a high rye whiskey. This 95% rye mashbill whiskey was originally intended to be sold to companies who would then blend it with other whiskies, as is common practice in Scotland. But some companies found the “95” rye was quite good on its own right and so they would simply select particular barrels and sell them under their own label without any blending. Because of the huge financial undertaking it is to produce a whole new product or to start a distillery yourself, "95" became very popular as the "go-to" rye producer. And with few options when one wants to purchase rye in the United States, it is quite understandable how quickly brands like Bulleit, Redemption, Willet, possibly Templeton, George Dickel, among others, all flocked to the "95," with very little differences in flavor profile.
From this 95% rye whiskey, George Dickel takes the product through its Lincoln Country process using its iconic sugar maple charcoal. Usually Dickel would chill the distillate and run it through the filtration process before it's aged, but understandably so, this 5 year old whiskey is chilled and filtered before bottling, creating a Lincoln County twist on a product that usually sees little change after leaving the MGPI plant.
As I alluded to prior, this is all just business as usual. Some make a larger deal about this than need be. Some don't make large enough of a deal. What I care about is transparency. And this stuff ain’t bad by any stretch of the imagination. MGPI/LDI produces rather good products. But ultimately, to cut to the punch line--for myself, this rye is just not Dickel. It’s not what I would expect from Dickel. It’s just not the Tennessee Rye I was hoping for.
George Dickel Rye Whisky Review:
Price: From $24-$28 for a 750ml bottle. I find it difficult to purchase this when it is more expensive than their standard Number 12--which Dickel actually produces.
Packaging/Labeling: This is where I have some complaints. Same Dickel bottle with lovely green tones – all of which I love. But the label to me is deceptive. They can’t legally say it’s a Tennessee whiskey (as far as I know, it’s not even bottled in Tennessee), it states that it is distilled in Lawrenceburg, IN on the back, but it speaks about George Dickel and his desire to create the “smoothest Tennessee Whisky around,” small batch, and handcrafted. Advertisers can say what they want, but I don’t like it. Simple as that.
Alcoholic Content: 45% abv, 90 proof.
Nose: Spearmint, cedar, and lemongrass. Cereal and oatmeal grains. Nothing overcomplicated, if not anodyne.
Palate: Balanced palate of rye spice and sweet spearmint burst onto the scene. The charcoal mellowing makes a huge impact. Nothing is over woody, over spiced, over sweet. A nice oily dark chocolate mint candy on the finish - think Andess Mints.
Conclusion: This is by far my most preferred expression of the "95" rye from MGPI, not counting what is being done at High West. It’s a solid, well-rounded, balanced rye. Not great by any means, but I wouldn’t be disappointed if someone bought me a dram of it at a bar.
On a positive note, this might be the last MGPI/LDI product we see on the market for a good while, says Chuck Cowdery, since Dickel has “locked up” current supply, and the current MGPI rye supply is less than a year old! This means that everyone just might have to wait for new and original products to come to the market, rather than repackaging the same old stuff.