...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Pair of Dickels, Classic No. 8 and Rye Whisky

When it comes to Tennessee Whisk(e)y many of you know more about it than I.  This I blame on Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey, one of America's worst exports, worse than nuclear weapons and Jerry Lewis.  I've never understood why people choose to get drunk off of Jack.  Yes, they want the rock star cliché but, goddamn it, rock stars have gotten drunk off of everything.  Go huff gasoline fumes rather than drinking Jack from the bottle; the lights will be brighter and you'll pass out quicker.  Mmmmm, gasoline.

I first heard of George Dickel in the film Wonder Boys, in which a double Dickel on the rocks was Grady Tripp's drink of choice.  The Dickel didn't hit my lips until last year, when Florin (a prince) donated most of a 375mL bottle of Dickel's No. 8 to the Diving for Pearls Laboratories.

Dickel's bourbon-esque mashbill is very high in corn, around 84%.  They use the Lincoln County Process, which is now legally required in order to label a booze "Tennessee Whiskey" (except for Prichard's).  In a small shriveled nutshell, the Lincoln County Process is a method wherein the spirit is filtered through or soaked in charcoal chips, chunks, or slabs before being poured into barrels.  The benefit of this filtration is something forever debated between Kentucky and Tennessee whiskey fans. (For more and better info see The Chuck Cowdery Blog.)

In 2012, Dickel released a rye.  Using MGP spirit (95% rye), they give it a pass through charcoal before barreling it in order to Tennessee-up its Indiananess.

While Dickel has other products -- such as the No. 12, No. 1, and Barrel Select -- today I'm reporting on the "Classic No. 8" and the rye.

Brand: George Dickel
Product: Classic No. 8
Owner: Diageo :(
Distillery: Cascade Hollow
Location: Normandy, Tennessee, USA
Type: Tennessee Whiskey
Mash Bill: 84% corn, 8% rye, 8% malted barley
Barrel Char: #4 on the barrel, #2 on the heads
Age: used to be 4 to 6 years, probably closer to 4 years now
Bottle code: L00192P00109:48 (2000 or 2010?)
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
(Thank you to Florin for the sample!)

The color is light gold.  The nose is bright and brown sugary.  Something smoky lingers, whether from the barrel or the charcoal.  There are notes of oatmeal and baby spit-up, along with peppery rye.  The butyric note grows with time.  The palate is full of yeast, barley, and burnt corn.  Smaller notes of fennel seeds and tree bark float around.  There's also a strong vegetal note throughout, sometimes it's asparagus, sometimes black kale, sometimes brussels sprouts.  The vegetal thing continues into the very drying finish, joined by oak pulp and bark, burnt corn, and (perhaps) urine.

More on this below.  Onto the rye.

Brand: George Dickel
Product: Rye
Owner: Diageo :(
Distillery: Midwest Grain Products
Location: Lawrenceburg, Indiana, USA
Type: Rye Whiskey
Mash Bill: 95% rye, 5% malted barley
Barrel Char: #4 on the barrel, #2 on the heads
Age: ???
Alcohol by Volume: 45%
(Thank you to Florin for the sample!)

The color is a much redder gold than the No. 8.  In the nose there's a load of the MGP-style rye herbal spices, trending peppery.  It's also floral and very sugary (lollipops, caramel, and cotton candy).  I'm also finding some papaya and raspberry jam amongst a bit of charred oak.  The palate is the mildest MGP rye I've had: a heavily watered down Willett mixed with simple syrup.  There's cherry lollipops, rosewater, lots of peppercorns, and a hint of berry syrup.  It gets drier in the finish.  More oak rumbles in.  Sweet caramel and black pepper.

The rye is rounder and bolder than the No. 8.  But keep in mind, I'm biased towards MGP's rye.  The noses are the best parts of both whiskies.  The veggie note in the No. 8 isn't as big as my notes may make it seem, but it is definitely present.  When I drank the No. 8 last summer, I usually did it on the rocks and found it pleasant enough.  So, I recommend doing it Grady Tripp-style.  Hitting it with ice cuts the veggie notes out completely.  The rye doesn't need ice.  I also think it didn't deserve any charcoal filtering, as that was likely responsible for domesticating the MGP beast.

While the No. 8 is the weaker whisky, it is still a step or two above Jack Daniel's Old No. 7.  But then again, so are hemorrhoids.

Availability - At most major retailers
Pricing - $15-$20
Rating - 75

Availability - At most major retailers
Pricing - $20-$26
Rating - 82


  1. I almost forgot about the #8, you took your time with that one!
    Here were my notes from the Dickel #8:
    Innocuous, easy drinking, but not quite rewarding. Very sweet, smells & tastes like maple + cough syrup. 2*
    And from the Dickel Rye:
    Nice, smooth, a little bland. Signature Dickel maple note. Much better with some Collingwood 21yo added! 2.5*

    1. I am not sold on the whole charcoal filtering thing. It took almost all of the fun out of the MGP rye. While the Dickel rye is decent and very affordable (albeit owned by The Big D), I think it would have been better without The Process.

      I actually drank almost all of the #8 during the month you handed over the bottle. It was perfectly acceptable on the rocks. Doesn't hold up, though, under interrogation.

    2. My take is, they go for the "smooth" and easy-going thing, it's not a whisky drinker's whisky. You just sit down at the bar, or on your motorcycle, whatever, and shoot it up. Lots of people love a soft pillow and an extra teaspoon of sugar in their tea. There is a reason why JD is #1. Just as there is a reason Tobermory is on very very few people's radar.

      (But then again, there's Willett Anything and Springbank, everybody's sweethearts.)

    3. Funny, I just saw Wonder Boys last week for the first time and did a double-take at the mention of Dickel.

      I agree with your notes on the No. 8. I like the No. 12 better than all of their others (including the more expensive Barrel Select). I find it suitable for sipping neat. I assume you're familiar with it, but I would recommend it if not.

      The latest retailer bottlings of 9yr and 14yr can be a little hit-and-miss depending on the retailer's choices, but I've had some of both that were very good.

    4. I had a chance to try one of the 9yrs and found it to be very very woody. I've heard so many raves about the Barrel Selects that I'll give another one a try. I'll keep my eye out for the #12, thanks!

    5. @Florin - While I agree with your assessment, I find it ironic that bikers choose soft whiskies. If they want rough I guess they go with Jägermeister, or so the commercials tell me.

    6. Behind that aggro exterior there's a soft little child needing to be loved.