Friday, January 23, 2015
The moment I heard about George A. Dickel’s fantastic “Claim Your Cask” program—which lets whiskey fanatics sample the contents of specially selected aged barrels and choose their own to be hand bottled—I knew I had to get involved. Interest in American whiskies is at an all-time high, and Tennessee whiskey, such as that made by Dickel, is a true American classic: corn based, charcoal filtered, and aged in new American white oak barrels, with just a touch of char.
Here’s how it works: The folks at Dickel choose a selection of single barrel whiskies, each aged at least 9 years in their rickhouses in Cascade Hollow, Tennessee. Dickel has its own “mashbill,” or recipe, for these whiskies: 84 percent corn, 8 percent rye, and 8 percent malted barley, for a little sweetness. The whiskies come in at about 103 proof. We were sent samples from 3 barrels, with directions for choosing the one we liked best. But here’s the catch: It’s really, really hard to choose just one. So we opted to go for two, with slightly different taste profiles to appeal to the range of whiskey lovers that we have among our clientele.
There was no way I was doing this all by myself, so I called upon my good friend and bourbon aficionado Louis Morin, whose comprehensive knowledge of American whiskey, plus his willingness to taste as many as necessary to get it right, made him the perfect partner in this enterprise. I eventually chose a whiskey that had that classic Tennessee profile: rich and smooth with flavors of vanilla and caramel. Louis went for a slightly more sophisticated palate—a touch more astringency and a little smokiness.
We finally agreed on two barrels. The first we released on Mardis Gras 2015. It is supple and smooth, with great enticing aromas of praline, butterscotch and stone fruit. The texture is round and full-bodied. And it shows a very long finish. Both of the actual barrels decorate the store, so be sure to look for them next time you are in.