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George Dickel 13 Year Bottled in Bond Number Three

Cascade Hollow’s George Dickel Tennessee Whisky products are polarizing for the American corn-majority whiskey drinking community.

In 2019, Whisky Advocate named the first batch of Dickel 13 Year Bottled in Bond their “whisky of the year.” Dickel is a bottle that busts the fences on which American whiskey drinkers can usually sit, and I have rarely spoken to anyone who is ambivalent about the brand.

Dickel’s alleged strong minerality and assertive fruit notes have made its flavor profile somewhat of a reference point among the small online American whiskey enthusiast community with, innumerable allusions to the American fruit-flavored cereal Fruity Pebbles. Despite the ubiquity of these flavor claims for Dickel and other brands like Jim Beam, I have always worried that reviews and social media create a flavor impression as often as they describe it. Put another way: I occasionally feel compelled to evaluate if it is worth investigating whether a beverage consumer being told a flavor is in their glass may actually create the impression of a flavor that otherwise would not have existed in that consumer’s mind.

The first example of erroneous flavor suggestion that comes to mind for me: I have not found a consistent or readily identifiable peanut note in the Jim Beam profile that is so often used to describe Beam products by enthusiastic consumers on social media. I have only tasted a few bottles of Knob Creek in which that flavor isidentifiable but, more often than not, Beam products diverge in interesting and fun ways that have nothing to do with peanut flavor.

For purposes of today’s review, I am working at cross-purposes with two separate and opposing biases. First, many friends and trusted spirits writers loathe the admittedly distinctive Dickel flavor profile. Also, the flavor claims of Fruity Pebbles-meets-multivitamin claims are hard to shrug off once you have seen them north of a dozen times. In contrast, I personally am fond of the Dickel products I have consumed.

To mitigate my concern about bias and suggestibility for Dickel, I developed a blind tasting of my bottle of Dickel 13 Year Bottled in Bond Number Three distilled in the spring season of 2007. In the tasting, I included two other aged American whisk(e)ys. However, finding bottles that achieve a comparable age and very rough profile to Dickel 13 year from my home selection (without shopping for 13 year age-stated NDP) was difficult.

From my home bar, I settled on a 12 year Elijah Craig Barrel Strength—which I have always felt contained a gentle metallic note—and proofed it down to roughly 100. I also set aside a pour of Henry McKenna 10 Year to get another alternative and an older bottled-in-bond pour made sense to me, despite it sharing the same mash bill as Elijah Craig. My memory is exceptionally poor, so helping myself forget which glass was which after shuffling with my eyes closed was not particularly hard (the glasses were labeled on the bottom).

George Dickel 13 Year Bottled in Bond Number Three – Review

100 proof (50% ABV). Widely available for $40.

Color: Russet.

On the nose: Pasteurized apple juice and ferrous minerality dominate upon initial approach. Scents of tobacco, caramel, fennel, buttered toast, baking spice, toasted rice, musty pastry, and crème de mûre are robust and readily available, but less brash. A light patina of citron serves as a binding for the various scents.

In the mouth: Astringent tanned leather and hard candy sweetness slaps the drinker in the face right out the gate. Along the middle of the palate, the leather holds, but is matched by a panoply of robust and easily discernible fruit notes, including glace cherries, sweet plum, strawberry, and blackberry preserves as supporting actors fading into the back of the palate. The classic Dickel mineral notes are present through the initial sip and become more apparent in the middle and back of the palate. Cinnamon and caramel build gently with pine resin during the transition into the finish, which brings a light pleasant attenuated tanned leather, fortified cereal, pine resin, and port.

Conclusions:

Okay, well, I am owned. When I wrote the narrative portion of this post, which I usually do first, I anticipated writing a whole spiel here about sensory independence and not letting one’s own palate get pulled along by glib jokes. The memes are mostly correct. Dickel’s fruit and minerality stood out instantaneously in stark contrast to the robust caramel in the Elijah Craig Barrel Proof and simply whelming Heaven Hill profile in the McKenna. I would nonetheless posit that this Dickel batch evokes fresh berries, stone fruit, and high-quality blackberry preserves rather than any sort of one-note children’s cereal.

I find the Dickel profile – with its distinctive bright jammy fruit notes and minerality – interesting and enjoyable. I also love other aged spirits, such as some older Armagnacs, with heavy mineral and fruit notes, which I suspect influences my positive perception of the brand. So, rather than just offering my score, I suggest potential consumers think about what they enjoy in aged spirits.

If you are looking for a bottle of a comparatively affordable older whiskey with a traditional bourbon profile in the hopes that it will substitute for Russell’s Reserve 13 Year or scarce 12 year batched products, this product will probably disappoint. The Dickel profile’s minerality and jammy fruit notes remain strong in this batch and, if anything, are enhanced and broadened rather than attenuated by age. This particular batch is over-oaked—though not by a large margin—which is readily apparent on the palate with astringency burying some of the nuance in the glass and weakening the pour’s cohesion.

Despite this, Dickel 13 Year Bottled in Bond Number Three is worth checking out for people willing to treat it as a distinct product from traditional bourbons or Jack Daniels. If you are on the fence, it absolutely merits purchasing a pour at a bar to see if it fits your interests. For those who already know they enjoy fruit-forward, long-aged whiskies and enjoy or tolerate an assertive minerality, this Dickel bonded whiskey absolutely deserves a home on your shelf. In my debate between a 5 and 6, the product’s affordability relative to its age pushed it into a comfortable score of 6. Yabba Dabba Doo!

Score: 6/10

CategoriesAmerican
Evan

Originally from the frozen upper plains of North America, Evan is a freelance writer, former political science lecturer, and executive bourbon steward based in the District of Columbia. In addition to being an avid rum, brandy, and Japanese whisky consumer, Evan fell in love with bourbon at a young age and watched the industry boom early in the revival. He finds the distilled beverage alcohol industry's production processes and various business strategies endlessly fascinating.

  1. Jason C says:

    I’m with you on Dickel, I quite like the BIB offerings. I don’t personally get “Flintstone vitamins” but I do see how the minerality could get you there.

    Not sure if you’ve had a basic Beam white label recently but i definitely concur with the peanutty vibe there. I don’t usually pick much of it up in Knob Creeks either, though. And I can say the same for banana in Jack Daniel’s. Yes in No. 7, but no in any of the myriad other JD products I’ve tried. (Bonded, Triple Mash, several single barrels, the SR rye…) I also never get it in Old Forester.

    I absolutely believe in taste suggestibility, but also sometimes everyone says the same thing simply because it is so.

  2. Graham says:

    Interesting thoughts on how flavours can be planted on the pysche and potentially subconsciously taint a tasting note.

    I’m always open to challenge myself and certainly don’t think I have an elevated palate beyond the average person. But I rather suspect that on occasion whisky reviewers may second guess their palate and then enhance their review either with a few tasting notes borrowed from the product or other reviews.

    It’s the same at in person tastings, those loud confident notes offered to the room first are often just an overview of the ‘house style’ and as such safe. The most interesting voices are those toward the end who are bold enough to disagree.

    The other occasion this happens is when the person leading the tasting also forcefully implants notes before people have a chance to get into the whisky. An approach I see most from weaker whiskies being marketed.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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