George Dickel is the second most popular brand of Tennessee Whisky in the world. The George A. Dickel Distillery located in Tullahoma, Tennessee produces 8 brands, labels and variations of Tennessee Whiskey. George Dickel's accounts for 7% of all Tennessee Whiskey produced and sold in the world. The brand is owned by Diageo, a huge spirit conglomerate headquartered in London, England.
George Augustus Dickel was an immigrant from Germany born in 1818 who came to the United States in 1844. He started in business with a retail store in Nashville in 1852 from which he began to sell whisky in 1861 during the Union occupation of Tennessee. When the war ended in 1865, George had one of the largest liquor store operations in the city on South College Street. Just three years later in 1868 he founded "Geo.A.Dickel & Co.", a wholesaling company that bought whiskey from distillers all over Tennessee and Kentucky and sold it throughout the south, not just in barrels, but in bottles and gallon jugs as well.
When the operation became big enough, he took on a partner in Meier Saltzkotter, who was his plant manager at the "Geo.A.Dickel & Co.". Ten years later, George took on another partner in 1881 in his brother-in-law Victor Emmanuel Shwab. Victor also worked for Dickel as the company's bookkeeper when he was promoted. Together the three partners bought up as much Whisky as they could and their reputation grew. Many around the south knew that the "Geo.A.Dickel & Co.", sold the smoothest, most mellow spirits in the region. Soon they became the biggest buyer of Cascade Whisky made by John F. Brown and F.E. Cunningham in the early 1870's in Tullahoma, Tennessee.
In 1878, another local businessman, Maclin Davis joined the latter partnership and became the facility's master distiller. It was Davis that was given credit for the Cascade Whisky recipe. Each label of Cascade included the phrase, "Mellow as Moonlight", which paid homage to Davis's method of cooling the mash tubs at night. Prior to the turn of the century Cascade Whisky was one of the top selling brands in the State of Tennessee. About the same time that Davis bought into the company, George bought the largest outstanding shares available from other partners.
George Dickel followed a Scottish tradition of spelling whisky without an “e.” That's because the company and George Dickel himself knew that their "Sippin' Whisky" had the highest quality and was as smooth as any of the Best Scotch Whiskies out there.
In 1887, Dickel was involved in a shipping accident and became unable to carry on many of things that he had been doing. His brother-in-law Victor Scwab started taking on some responsibility at the distillery and all of the day to day functions on the wholesale shipping side of the business. In 1889 Shwab bought out the two partners from Coffee County and the Cascade Distillery was now entirely owned by Dickel, Shwab and Davis. As part of that agreement "Geo.A.Dickel & Co." became the sole distributor of Cascade Whisky. It was Shwab who also decided that the company needed a really swanky metropolitan home office, so he bought the very hip "Climax Saloon" in Nashville. They advertised the saloon as the "World Headquarters" of Cascade Whisky. George Dickel died in 1894 and left his majority share to his wife Augusta. She was not involved in any part of the distillery, saloon or wholesale parts of the business and when she died in 1916 she willed her share to her sister's husband Victor Shwab, who was a longtime partner of Dickel. Shwab started advertising the whiskey nationally, and then internationally. The distillery continued to grow and gain momentum.
After Master Distiller Maclin Davis died death in 1898, Norman Davis his son ran the production side of the distiller and briefly became the "Geo.A.Dickel & Co." second Master Distiller. Then Shwab sued Davis and forced to sell his share in the company. From 1900-1917 Shwab fought overtly against the temperance movement and those demanding Prohibition. He spent time and tens of thousands of dollars trying to convince Tennessee politicians in Nashville to vote against any legislation aimed at limiting the sale of alcohol. But the wave of temperance was too strong and the State of Tennessee passed prohibition in 1910. Shwab took flight and transferred his distilling operations of Cascade Whisky to relocate to Louisville, Kentucky to the famous Stitzel Distillery. Victor continued utilizing what came to be known as the "Lincoln County Process," a charcoal mellowing vat, that filtered the whisky and ensured the continuity of flavor. Cascade was produced in Kentucky until that operation was shut down when nationwide prohibition passed in 1919. In January of 1920, Prohibition became the law of the land and shut down the alcohol industry. No Cascade Whisky would be distilled for 17 years.
The Stitzel Distillery, where Cascade Whiskey was made, was one of six distilleries that were able to take advantage of a loophole to stay alive. The law permitted the distillation of medicinal spirits by a very limited number of distilleries to fill perscriptions of whisky if perscribed by a doctor. Cascade whiskey began to be sold as medicine in 1920. By the time Prohibition had been repealed in 1933, the brand had undergone several changes and a few different incarnations. It ultimately became Cascade Hollow Bourbon.
In 1937 Victor Shwab's children sold the Cascade brand name to Schenley Distilling Company. Schenley at the time in the 1940's and 1950's operated out of the O.F.C. Distillery (which is the Buffalo Trace Distillery today) in Frankfort, Kentucky. The original recipe before prohibition had never been written down, and had to be obtained from two former distillery employees at the Cascade Hollow site. Once reverted back to the original recipe Schenley distilled, sold and advertised the whiskey under the brand name "Geo. A. Dickel's Cascade Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky". This was the first time the founder Dickel's name was associated in the name of the brand.
In 1956 Schenley attempted to buy Jack Daniels and when the offer was refused they decided to compete with Jack Daniels. The CEO at Schenley's at the time was Ralph Dupps and he decided to reconstructed the Cascade Hollow distillery about a mile from the old distillery site. This allowed the facility to utilizes the same waters of Cascade Branch Creek that was used in the original Cascade Whiskey. The Cascade Hollow Distillery opened its doors once again in 1958 and the charcoal filtering process was reinstated. The first mash was produced at the new distillery on July 4, 1959. It was Dupps that opted at that time to stop using the Cascade name and use George Dickel's name and trademark it because of Cascade's reputation was that of a value brand. The George Dickel "Black Label Old No.8" and the George Dickel "Tan Label Superior No.12" both debuted in 1964. Each barrel of George Dickel starts out life with a mash bill of dry ingredients blending 84% corn, 8% rye and 8% malted barley before being injected with a proprietary yeast strain and fermented in a vat of water.
A number of mergers and acquisitions resulted in Diageo Corporation buying the Dickel brand. Increased production in the 1990s caused oversupply and in response, the distillery was shut down in 1994. Nine years later in 2003, almost too late to prevent a shortage of the Dickel brands it reopened.
In 2005 Dickel promoted John Lunn as its Master Distiller and he served in that position until March 2015. In 2007 Diageo introduced a younger, three-year-old version branded "Old-Fashioned Cascade Hollow Batch Recipe" to meet demand. It was discontinued in 2014, after aged stocks rebounded sufficiently to replenish the regular Dickel brands.
In 2011 the distillery introduced "George Dickel Rye," it is also charcoal filtered and bottled in Tullahoma, Tennessee. In 2012 Diageo’s George Dickel jump on the "white whisky" bandwagon with their "George Dickel White Corn Whiskey No 1". Considered its “Foundation Recipe”, George Dickel No. 1 is the same mashbill that George Dickel uses for most of their aged whiskies but tempered down to 91 proof. In 2013 George Dickel released its "Barrel Select" which is a Tennessee Whisky made from just 10 hand selected barrels, so you are going to get a bit of variety from batch to batch.
On November 14, 2014 the distillery introduced “Hand Selected Single-Barrel, 9 year-old George Dickel Tennessee Whisky". It is packaged elegantly in poplar wood box with a brass plate bottle chain. It's also very important to point out that this Dickel is different than the “Barrel Select” version. Both come from the same Dickel mash bill and both are charcoal and chill filtered. The differences are the proof, the age, and the fact that one is small-batch bottled and the other single-barrel bottled. The Barrel Select comes in at 86 proof. The Hand Selected rocks a 103. Barrel Select is 10 to 12 years old, though no age statement. Hand Selected is stated 9 years old.
In 2017 Distiller Allisa Henley was searching George Dickel’s single story barrel warehouses for 9-Year Old whisky to use in the Hand Selected Barrel Program she’d launched in 2014. However, after pulling a sample from a row near the back of one of the warehouses, she found roughly eighty 17-Year Old barrels. She said "I knew it was too good not to share as the extra time in the barrel had resulted in a perfectly balanced, flavorful sipping whisky. Many claim that this is the best whisky ever to come out of the State of Tennesee.” The "Limited Edition 17 year-old Reserve George Dickel", will only be available at George Dickel’s Cascade Hollow Distillery Visitor’s Center in Tullahoma, Tennessee, and select retailers in the state with strong whiskey programs. It will price around $95 for a 375 ml bottle.
“George Dickel is one of the most unique distilleries in world, it lives by its slogan, "Handmade the Hard Way" which is a way of life in Cascade Hollow. There is a human being at every stage of the distillation process. Everything is meticulously measured and recorded by hand.
Click On first Slide to see all of George Dickel's North American Tennessee Whiskies
All photos pf George Dickel are provided by George Dickel Distillery