George Dickel Bottled in Bond (Spring 2011) Whisky Review

Drink Reviews whiskey
George Dickel Bottled in Bond (Spring 2011) Whisky Review

In the world of American whiskey, offering great value to the consumer can be a bit of a double-edged sword. Certainly, competitively priced bottles are a boon for the bottom and middle shelf in particular, helping to build a strong core customer base. But value simultaneously has a strange relationship with critical acclaim–a more “premium” brand can be showered with praise by critics but still overlooked by drinkers at the same time, not because it’s inaccessible but because it’s too accessible for American whiskey geeks, perpetually driven by a scarcity mindset, to give it the time of day. And since 2019, I’ve often thought this was the case with George Dickel’s lauded series of Bottled in Bond releases, which continue to offer some of the best pure value on the whiskey shelf.

The initial release of George Dickel Bottled in Bond Whisky certainly made waves back in 2019, because how could it not with these specs–a 13-year-old, 100 proof Tennessee whiskey from Dickel–though they spell it differently, for reasons we recently covered–that retailed for a seemingly impossible $36 MSRP at the time. Since then, though, the value represented by the brand has only gotten more pronounced. Yes, the MSRP has risen slightly, now at $45, but compared with the subsequent rises and price gouging that have ripped through the industry during the pandemic era, this is far below average. The pricing was an outlier then; it remains a huge outlier now.

But of course, that’s par for the course when it comes to Dickel, a company that has always managed to offer extremely accessible values, particularly in extra-aged segments of its portfolio–though the 17 and 18-year-old releases of George Dickel in the last few years were notably more pricey, perhaps reflecting the desires of parent company Diageo to seize on premiumization and “limited release” trends. Still, this BiB series remains perhaps the most impressive overall showcase for Dickel visionary Nicole Austin’s blending prowess, particularly because it offers a chance to sample a very mature flavor profile at such an approachable price point. In short, the contents here are something that pretty much any other distillery would charge you at least double for at this point in 2024.

So, with that said, what we have to taste here today is the fifth expression of the series, Spring 2011, named for when it was initially distilled. Like other batches, this is bottled at a stout 50% ABV (100 proof), and is referred to by Dickel simply as “whisky,” though it could legally bear the title of bourbon if they wanted it to. Let’s get to tasting it.

On the nose, this one immediately displays the sweet and nutty character that is typically captured in these releases, which to me is one of the signature qualities of the brand. I’m getting candied/glazed peanuts along with specifically strawberry centric fruitiness, also flashing notes of fig and some more dried fruit. Dark caramels suggest creme brulee with just a touch of burnt sugar, along with waves of sweet oak.

On the palate, the oak stands out pretty notably here, with character that is both toasted/spicy and ever so slightly tart as well, just a faint pucker of woody acidity. I’m getting plenty of caramel and some vanilla pudding, along with more of the candied nuttiness and red berries. The fruitiness has an interesting, darker or cooked dimension almost verging into grape jam, while a persistent minerality lends it some more structure–the latter quality being something that some drinkers dislike about Dickel, but I have rarely minded. Ethanol is right about where it should be, sturdy enough to let you know it’s there without ever obscuring the sweeter flavors.

All in all, this batch of George Dickel Bottled in Bond evokes a lot of elements of past releases I’ve enjoyed in the series. From the standpoint of its specs alone, it remains one of the best pure values on the whiskey shelf today, particularly for the opportunity it offers to experience Cascade Hollow’s distillate at an undeniably mature age statement. Here’s hoping it remains this accessible forever.

Distillery: George Dickel
City: Tullahoma, TN
Style: Tennessee whiskey
ABV: 50% (100 proof)
Availability: Limited, 750 ml bottles, $45 MSRP

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

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