GEORGE DICKEL HAND SELECTED BARREL
Barrel #04F29 L 56-2-13 selected by Healthy Spirits (2017)
MASH BILL – 84% corn, 8% rye, 8% barley
PROOF – 103
AGE – 12 years 10 months
DISTILLERY – George Dickel & Co
PRICE – $65
BUY AGAIN? – If there were any still around, for sure. But they’re long gone, and I enjoyed two bottles over three years, so, can’t complain…!
I picked up a bottle of this George Dickel store pick in the Spring of 2017 and loved it. So I promptly bought a second bottle. While that bottle sat gathering dust in a corner of my whiskey bunker, I went through a handful of other George Dickel Hand Selected Barrel store picks. They were good. But none rose to the level of sumptuous pleasure that this 2017 pick had done. So I continued to sit on my second bottle, not wanting to let a good thing go.
Time passed and George Dickel went through a phase of earning smirks from bourbon fans due to the sheer number of non-distilling bottlers that were selling well-aged George Dickel distillates under their own labels. A lot of 12-to-14-year Dickel was popping up under a variety of labels and for three-digit prices. When George Dickel then put out their own 13-year bottling at $40, the smirks went bonkers.
But a pandemic reminds one of what’s important in life. Things have been so profoundly stressful since the Shelter-in-Place mandate went into effect. Between trying to wrap my brain around a slew of startling national and world politics, necessary social upheavals, changes at work, a more intimate relationship to my apartment, the grief that is social distancing… the list goes on… Between all these challenges, I’ve been uncorking those special bottles I thought I should save for… For what?! Now is really the only time that actually exists.
So, late one August night I spontaneously uncorked this well-kept George Dickel, and I was immediately re-impressed by its unique riches. Tonight I’m meditating on its final pour, fittingly at another late hour, now in the depths of October, when this bourbon really seems to work its dark, ember-like wonders.
Here are some notes in brief, tasted in a simple brandy glass.
COLOR – deeply toasted orange with nutshell browns
NOSE – walnut, cherry, rich cinnamon baking spices, fresh ground black pepper, smooth oak, caramel
TASTE – walnut, cherry, a lively spiciness, gooey caramel
FINISH – toasted caramel, walnut shell, faint cherry, a soft tingly pepperiness
OVERALL – such a good, warm, comfort bourbon
This bottle is unique among my many George Dickel experiences. Some people say George Dickel inevitably tastes to them of Flintstone Vitamins. I’ve never picked up that note. But I can imagine Dickel’s particular blend of sparkly cinnamon-laden baking spices going that way. When those baking spices are soaked in gooey caramel, I’m perfectly happy. When the caramel is less present, I do get weary of the insistently chipper spice blend.
What this particular single barrel offers is a distinct, prominent combination of walnut and cherry threading through the journey from the nose through the taste and on to the finish. It is a rich combination, with the granular aspects of the baking spices adding texture to the smoothness of the walnut, cherry, and caramel. The walnut aspect in particular is quite nuanced, leaning brighter and darker from sip to sip, now more in the shell and now more the meat of the nut itself. The cherry note is always there adding a sweetness to the woody walnut.
I now stare down the very final sip with a sigh. I shall miss this unique whiskey. At the same time, I know there are many more special bottles ahead. This is the beauty of whiskey—it comes in endless variations. By definition, “special” can only apply to a minority of whiskeys. Otherwise the term would have no meaning. But there are no bad whiskeys in the end. Only whiskeys one enjoys more or less than others.
There. I tossed it back. So good! Now I want a bowl of walnuts and dried cherries. I’ll settle for nosing the empty glass… All those aromas are still there…!