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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

George Dickel, Tennessee, USA

I was lucky to spend my birthday in 2013 visiting the two major distilleries in Tennessee and this was the first one. The thing that immediately struck me about George Dickel was the fantastic setting… perhaps only rivaled by Woodford Reserve for major US distilleries I have seen. The site is also the only distillery that is also a US Post Office… so another first for me and another useless piece of trivia. This site was actually established in 1958 long after the original Mr Dickel and his distillery had perished but all the recipes and techniques had been preserved and are still used today. The original site was a short way up the road and we snapped a picture of the entrance as we drove away later on. The tour I took was free (they offer a tasting tour as well but that was later in the day) and started with a short eight minute DVD in the very nice visitor’s center. Being the “other distillery” in Tennessee has clearly influenced their tour and messaging. When describing their distillery the words “unique in Tennessee” were used a lot which was interesting and basically shorthand for “not like Jack Daniel’s” and included the ‘facts’ that they burned all their charcoal on site, that they double distilled their spirit (which may not be technically accurate as I asked when I toured JD and they said they did double distill) and they chill the whisky before charcoal mellowing. This is said to be because Mr. Dickel considered the whisky to taste better in the winter than the summer. You may also note I spell it as whisky ie no “e”.  This again is a “unique in Tennessee” tradition said to be started by Mr. Dickel who declared (a southern gent always declares in my mind) that his whisky was as good as the finest scotch and so adopted their spelling. I bought two bottles at the distillery shop afterwards, the No 12 and the Barrel Reserve. I also learned that the different expressions are all the same grain recipe (84% corn, 8% rye and 8% malt), the only difference between No 8, No 12 and Barrel Reserve is aging. No 8 is 5 -7 years old, No 12 is 8 – 10 years old and Barrel Reserve is 12 – 14 years old. The Dickel Rye is actually made in Indiana and contains 95% rye (if you are interested). You are? Good. So was I.

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Mount Gay Rum, Barbados

Mount Gay Rum, Barbados

OK so it’s not a whisky distillery (in fact the visitors center wasn’t even in the actual distillery) but there were plenty of similarities with whisky production. Tammy and I visited Mount Gay in Bridgetown, Barbados in October 2011. Mount Gay claims to be the oldest rum distillery in the world with deeds going back to 1703. The visitors center is in the bottling and blending plant near the harbour (handy for export). In a process similar to Scotch whisky production, the spirit is produced at their distillery in the north of the island near the sugar cane production. The by product of sugar production, molasses, is fermented and then distilled into rum. Interestingly some of the distillation is done in a continuous Coffey still, the same way that grain whisky is distilled, and some goes through a double distillation process in pot stills, ie the same as malt whisky. The different distillates are then matured in ex-bourbon casks from Kentucky (another similarity with scotch and other whisky) and then, when the maturation process is deemed complete, the two different distillates are finally blended and bottled. At the end of the short tour and video we were given samples of their three main products, Mount Gay Eclipse (43% ABV), Mount Gay Eclipse Black (50% ABV) and Mount Gay Extra Old (43% ABV – I think). While not quite what I expected (no actual distilling etc) it was still worth the visit, very generous samples at end of tour and a party atmosphere throughout, I think even the people working in the gift shop has been sampling the goods, perhaps the tradition of dramming is alive and well in Barbados. This tour was all about drinking and buying rum and we obliged on both counts and left with a bottle of Eclipse Black.

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