This spring, Tennessee Whisky famed George Dickel released the George Dickel Tabasco Brand Barrel Finish.
The product begins with standard George Dickel Tennessee Whisky (although the age of that whisky is not identified), and is then transferred and rested for 30 additional days in ex-Tabasco barrels “that still contain residual Tabasco pepper mash, allowing spice & flavor imparted on the wood to finish our whisky.” That product is then blended with a distilled Tabasco pepper sauce to create the final product that is then bottled at 70 proof.
Dickel says that “the result is a deliciously smooth whisky with a spicy finish.”
But it is not whisky. It is bottled at 70 proof (35% abv). Under federal law, whiskey has to be bottled at no less than 80 proof. George Dickel is quite careful on their label to not describe the product as a whiskey, but in its advertising, the references to “whisky” are quite apparent. Whisky is certainly the base, but the end result is something different (likely, “Bourbon Liquor” is the correct federal designation.)
But should we care? Is anyone going to confuse this for actual whiskey? Will it be enjoyed like an actual whiskey (i.e., drank neat or on the rocks, or even with a splash of coke)? Dickel says it is “Best enjoyed as a shot with celery salt on the rim, pickle juice, or an ice chaser. Damn straight, it’s Hot Dickel!”
I’m going in…
George Dickel Tabasco Barrel Finish (70 Proof) (NAS)
Nose: Pepper and heat, but more like jalapeño pepper pith (that white part of the pepper) and red pepper flakes than a vinegary hot pepper sauce; salt; some brown sugar and cardboard; very faint herbal and floral notes.
Palate: Thick for 70 proof, with a very saturated sugar water texture (not quite simple syrup); initial white sugar sweetness and corn with a hint of vinegar sharpness; vanilla; floral; slowly developing sweet cherry pepper (those slightly sweet peppers you can pick up from the olive bar at the grocery store)
Finish: Initially white sugar sweetness, but overtaken by Tabasco pepper sauce; some lingering hot pepper spice with some late arriving cinnamon sugar.
Overall: I don’t get much George Dickel with this, which I’m saddened by. But I’m also not overblown by Tabasco, which is pleasing. I wouldn’t drink this neat ever again, but I’m not sure that was the point. I’m certainly going to try it in a cocktail, or the manner that Dickel suggests above. Maybe I’ll even buy a full bottle to do so – it is a novelty, after all. I’m not going to give this any scores, because there really isn’t any standard in which to judge this. Again, I wouldn’t drink this straight, but I’m not sure that was the point. I tried it. I survived.
Scott is a co-founder of Flight Club and a frequent writer and reviewer on the Club’s blog.