George Dickel 18 Year Old Bourbon Whiskey Review
Over the past few years, George Dickel Distillery — also known as Cascade Hollow — has leaned in on highly aged, premium releases of its trademark Tennessee whisky. The producer’s 13 year-old Bottled in Bond expression has become a reliable shelf staple. In addition, the company revived its 17 Year Old Reserve Tennessee whisky in early 2023.
In 2021, Dickel also took the unconventional step of launching an 8 year-old bourbon, priced at a highly competitive $33. While its normal Tennessee whisky fits all legal definitions thereof, this was the first modern expression specifically marketed as bourbon whiskey. It was certainly an innovative approach to expand market share, and one that helps set the brand’s offerings apart from longtime rival Jack Daniel’s. (Which, to be fair, would also likely qualify as bourbon if the brand chose that marketing route.)
In late 2023, Dickel combined those two efforts with another company first: an 18 year-old bourbon whiskey. The release features Dickel’s normal mash bill of 84 percent corn, 8 percent rye, and 8 percent malted barley. Barrels were selected that “leaned more into traditional bourbon notes,” according to a brand press release.
George Dickel 18 Year Old Bourbon is bottled at 90 proof and carries a suggested retail price of $510, around double that of the last batch of 17 year Tennessee whisky.
Let’s see how the distillery’s newest offering — priced on the high end of the premium category — stacks up.
George Dickel 18 Year Old Bourbon: Stats and Availability
George Dickel 18 Year Old Bourbon is a first-of-its-kind release, and there are few bottlings to compare it to beyond the company’s 17 year old Tennessee whisky. The Diageo-owned brand also hasn’t released specifics on bottle count, simply calling it an “incredibly rare, luxurious new offering.”
Anecdotally, at least in my area, that 17 year old Tennessee whisky didn’t fly off shelves. A number of online retailers currently have it listed at or even slightly below the suggested retail of $250.
If you do come across George Dickel 18 Year Old Bourbon, I wouldn’t expect it to command much of a markup above that $510 MSRP, which already puts it among the most expensive bourbons on the market at retail price.
George Dickel 18 Year Old Bourbon Review
As with all of VinePair’s whiskey reviews, this was tasted in a Glencairn glass and rested for at least five minutes.
The nose starts on a strong fruity note, more potent than its 90 proof suggests, with bright candy peaches, fresh green apple, and cherry cough drop. It’s a notable spectrum, each fruit aroma carrying a sweet, caramel-forward undercurrent. Right off the bat, the bourbon leans into dessert more than the leathery, tannic notes often associated with 18 year old bourbon. There’s plenty of detectable oak, to be sure, presenting as a dark and nutty praline.
Immediately behind the fruity elements is a characteristic backdrop of minerality, with traces of magnesium, calcium, and potassium, not unlike sparkling mineral water.
In my experience, these elements aren’t present to the same degree in each and every Dickel expression. But they’re fully accounted for here, hand-in-hand with the added (but not overpowering) depth from 18 years in a barrel. It’s here where Dickel fans and cynics often diverge: do these notes accentuate good whiskey, or distract enough to overwhelm the entire experience?
At first, the fruit and minerals are a tiny bit discordant. Time in the glass brings significantly more harmony, and along with it a delicious aroma of strawberries and cream. This bourbon’s nose started off on uneven footing, but it sings to me by the time I dive in for a first taste.
Just lightly fruity and berry-forward at first sip, George Dickel 18 Year Old Bourbon shows its full age on the palate. The oak is pronounced, semi-sweet, and the tiniest bit drying. A second sip brings tanned leather, drying tobacco leaves, and — surprisingly — a touch of peat. I wish these notes had shown up more quickly on the nose!
Roasted peanut dominates the midpalate, marking a transition point after which the palate grows gradually sweeter. It’s a flavor strongly associated with some of the brand’s first batches of 13 year-old bottled-in-bond Tennessee whisky, particularly from the 2005 distillation season.
Those releases were characterized by great balance among sweetness, oak, and minerality. Here, however, flavors veer too far into saccharine territory, which doesn’t hold much depth when combined with dark oak flavors. It’s a bit difficult to tell if the proof point — relatively low for a premium market moving toward cask strength — contributes to or detracts from flavor equilibrium.
The nuttiness grows both darker and sweeter moving toward the sides, back, and roof of the mouth. That’s joined by light spearmint and the bright, green crispness of fresh romaine lettuce. The effect is reminiscent of peanut butter and lettuce sandwiches, a concoction I’ll shamelessly admit to enjoying.
While the midpalate hits some high notes, return sips quickly lose balance between the sweetness, oak, and minerals. And that’s most prevalent at the transition from palate to finish.
The end of the palate moves from that nut butter sweetness back to heavy oak. Minerality once again comes marching through, this time hints of iodine and sodium, tempered but unmistakable in their influence. They’re coupled with more minty brightness for a finish that’s ultimately both complex and disconcertingly short for an 18 year old bourbon.
George Dickel 18 Year Old Bourbon Rating
George Dickel’s 18 year-old bourbon exists at a difficult juncture in the American whiskey game. For one, a $510 price tag will raise eyebrows for any offering, let alone one bottled at 90 proof. And while its first bourbon offering was a retail bargain, Dickel’s next expression in the line is priced so many tiers up one wonders who the target market could actually be.
That said, there are a few standout notes on both the nose and palate, with flavors longtime Dickel fans might clamor to get their hands on. For many, though, it’s tough to imagine this bottle as worth the price of entry.