George Dickel 17 Year Old Reserve Whiskey

Drink Reviews whiskey
George Dickel 17 Year Old Reserve Whiskey

In recent years, limited edition whiskey releases have increasingly leaned heavily on gimmicks or secondary barrel finishes to stand out, as means to offer unique flavors that justify ever-rising price points. But the oldest and original way to make a splash in the whiskey world is still just as salient as ever: A big ‘ole age statement. And George Dickel’s new 17 Year Old Reserve certainly has that kind of age statement, the kind of number that will make fans of the Tennessee whiskey distillery sit up and automatically take notice.

This is actually not a “new” product, though, at least not technically. The 17-year-old expression of George Dickel as first released back in 2016, but at that point it was only in 375 ml bottles. That’s basically an eon ago in the whiskey world, though, and now the product has reappeared as a 750 ml bottle, in which Cascade Hollow Distilling General Manager and Distiller Nicole Austin said she “intentionally searched for barrels that captured the notable components of the original liquid” from the first release.

There are a few particular aspects of note here, with one that will stand out to whiskey geeks: This is a cask-strength expression, but it’s only 46% ABV (92 proof). This is a factor of the aging process at Cascade Hollow, where relatively cool temperatures presumably result in barrels tending to lose strength as they age. It’s something we’ve seen before fairly recently, in fact, as the experimental Cascade Moon 15 Year Barrel Proof from June was actually LESS THAN 80 proof, even at cask strength, and couldn’t legally be labeled as “whiskey.” At 92 proof, this 17-year is at a more fitting and comfortably familiar strength, but it’s still lower than many whiskey fans are used to seeing when they see the phrase “cask strength.” The MSRP is a painfully steep $250, but that’s the world we live in now.

So with all that said, let’s get to tasting this particularly mature example of Dickel’s Tennessee whiskey style.

On the nose, Dickel 17 Year Old Reserve is immediately rich and inviting, with extremely mild ethanol presence as one might expect. Right up front I’m getting chocolate fudge and toffee with pralines, along with raisin-like dried fruit. It’s certainly plenty oaky as well, with antique oak furniture-type notes, along with cinnamon and something reminiscent of in-flight Biscoff cookies

On the palate, dueling oak impressions take center stage, with sweet oak notes giving way to deeply charred oak and bittersweet espresso. Light smoke melds with toffee sweetness, roasted nuts and very dark and dried fruit, along with baking spice notes of cinnamon. There’s considerable tannin, a big oak presence at least partially balanced by candy sweetness, but the oak and dryness overall wins out in the finish, with a lingering, woodsy aftertaste that evokes a bit of pine. All in all this is pretty elegant, having just a touch of roasty astringency, but no elements that are unbalanced or overly oaked—rather, the balance falls only gently into the camp of oak over sweetness.

This whiskey shows the sort of deft blender’s hand that we’ve come to associate with Nicole Austin’s projects at Dickel, and this bottle will be a real treat to those who love oaky whiskey, and those who like roast/char and dark fruit in bourbon. Honestly, it’s pretty much exactly what you would hope a 17-year-old expression of Dickel would taste like.

Distillery: George Dickel (Cascade Hollow Distilling)
City: Tullahoma, TN
Style: Tennessee whiskey
ABV: 46% (92 proof)
Availability: Limited, 750 ml bottles, $250 MSRP

Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.

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