George Dickel (No. 12) Tennessee Whisky

The George Dickel brand is best known as the “other” Tennessee Whiskey. Without going into the whole thing here, I’ll summarize by saying Tennessee Whiskey is straight bourbon whiskey (but don’t call it bourbon) that has been filtered through some quantity of sugar-maple charcoal. George Dickel, owned by Diageo, takes the extra step of chilling the whiskey before performing the filtering. This practice, called ‘chill filtration’, is now generally avoided by modern scotch producers who have found that consumers prefer not to have flavor compounds filtered out of their high-end whiskies. Dickel claims the chill-filtration through charcoal “mellows” the whiskey, removing harsh flavors. Maybe. Who knows. It certainly worked out in their rye.

George Dickel’s lineup includes several Tennessee whiskies including a “No. 8” which is comparable to Jack Daniel’s “Old No. 7” in the black bottle, a “No. 12” (this one) which includes older whisky in the blend and an extra 5% bottling strength, a Bottled-in-Bond 13-year, and a small batch “Barrel Select”. The Tennessee whiskies are all made at Dickel’s historic Cascade Hollow Distillery near Tullahoma, Tennessee, from a mash bill of 84% corn, 8% rye, and 8% malted barley. The “No. 12” (which has a large 12 on the label, something that I consider to be confusing for people accustomed to seeing ages of maturation so prominently featured) is actually aged between 6 and 8 years and bottled at 45% ABV. It is chill-filtered through sugar maple charcoal, like the rest of Dickel’s whiskies.

Nose: Oddly grassy, with notes of fresh-mown grass as well as something like pickle juice or sauerkraut. I’m now so preoccupied with the thought of pickle-flavored whiskey that I can’t detect anything else. Luckily the pickle note dissipates with a rest in the glass, leaving plain old green grass behind.

Palate: Soft, medium-bodied… almost heavy. A strong tongue burn is followed by an assortment of hard candies, cinnamon red hots, hay bales, lemon peel, and floor wax.

Finish: Finally some oak, with mild drying tannins and very little bitterness. Not particularly sweet, and a bit one-dimensional. Fades without evolving.

With Water: Several drops of water seem to have no effect on the aroma or palate, although it might make the finish a little sweeter. Water is optional here.

Overall: Uhh. Well, it’s probably better than Jack Daniel’s (which, admittedly, I haven’t had in years), but the combination of flavors is a little off-putting. Despite the low price, I can think of a number of regular old non-Tennessee whiskies that I’d rather drink: Four Roses, 1792, Buffalo Trace, Evan Williams, Old Bardstown, and even Wild Turkey 101. In fact, the George Dickel rye (made by MGP) is the same price and is far better in every way. Get that instead.

George Dickel (No. 12) Tennessee Whisky
45% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $17 - $25
Acquired: (750 ml bottle) Purchased at Total Wine, San Jose, CA, $19.

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  • I read once someone commenting that it has a Vitamin-C powder flavor and I could not detach my mind from that when I bought a bottle. The BiB is a much superior whiskey, by for the star of their lineup and not much more expensive (I can find it for $32). I did not dislike the 12 but I agree that WT101 is a much better whiskey for that money.

  • I find it fascinating that our palates are so different. Reading your tasting notes, I would never have guessed you were describing Dickel No.12. I think it’s one of the better value-for-money whiskies on the market. Of course, Ontario prices are much higher than yours. I got plenty of cherries, toffee, and creamy buttered corn from this whisky. Not a life-changer by any means, but I found it to be a respectable “background whisky”.

      • There’s definitely a ton of subjectivity to tasting. Sadly, the Dickel BiB isn’t available here in Ontario. Our liquor overlords are determined to overwhelm us with an abundance of the U.S.A’s most mediocre products. There’s always a ton of Buffalo Trace (hard no), Bulleit (not on your life), and Elijah Craig Small Batch (HELL no), but they don’t carry Old Grand Dad 114, Russell’s Reserve, Old Forester Prohibition, Old Fitzgerald, or even Maker’s Mark Cask Strength. Lucky for me, I have relatives who travel to the States on a regular basis, so I put in my bourbon order with them before they leave.

  • Up until as late as about 2016, GD12 was an incredible value. It had a very distinct sweetness and you’ll find old reviews talking about its (controversial) buttered popcorn note, which I think might have been diacetyl. If you can find a bottle with the old label then you are in for a treat. Unfortunately, the new GD12 is a shadow of its former self.

  • I always find your reviews interesting, because more often than not when you dislike something it tells me to check that bottle out.

    • Happy to be a counter-indicator. Taste is subjective, everyone should use their own tastes to evaluate products and not rely on Internet reviewers, who might very well have different tastes. Thanks for the comment!

  • I’ve been drinking TN and KY whiskey for 45 years, and I totally disagree with this review. This is a very good bourbon especially for the price. It’s smooth and mellow and is head and shoulders better than Jack, Evan, Trace, 4 Roses, Bulleit, and even Weller. I know everyone’s nose/palate is different but to characterize this good whiskey as having notes of grass, pickles, sauerkraut, floor wax, and hay bales is just totally absurd, absolutely laughable.

    • I’m very happy to have readers disagree with my reviews. Tastes are subjective, I can only provide my own. That said, how is tasting grass and pickles laughable and absurd if, as you say, everyone’s nose/palate is different? Are you saying everyone’s nose/palate is different but they should only speak up if they agree with your nose/palate?