TULLAHOMA, Tenn. (WKRN) – Tucked away in the hills and valleys of Coffee County lies a distillery known for making whiskey as “mellow as moonlight.”
Locals combine it with a citrus soda, but George Dickel Tennessee whisky has been used as both a sipping spirit and a medicinal one during the dark days of Prohibition, according to representatives from Cascade Hollow Distilling Co., which produces the whisky today.
Its namesake was a Nashville merchant-turned-wholesaler. According to the distilling company, Dickel grew his reputation for selling the smoothest, most mellow spirits in the region, eventually opening Geo. A. Dickel & Co.
When the Cascade Hollow distillery opened in 1878, Dickel bought a large share, opting to follow the Scottish tradition of spelling whiskey without the “e.”
The “mellow as moonlight” moniker, used in advertising campaigns, comes from the way Dickel’s preferred production schedule.
“George Dickel preferred whisky made in the winter months more than summer months because he felt it made the whisky taste smoother, so the company began advertising their Geo. A. Dickel’s Cascade Tennessee Whisky as ‘Mellow as Moonlight,’” representatives said.
That tradition is still followed to this day.
“This is why our whisky is chilled before undergoing the charcoal-mellow filtration known as the Lincoln County Process,” representatives said.
The distillery prospered for several years before the enactment of Prohibition. Tennessee was one of the early adopters of the anti-liquor campaign, enacting its own Prohibition laws nine years prior to the federal adoption.
“The distillery was closed, but the then-named Cascade Whisky was allowed to be sold as a medicinal spirit through leased equipment at the Stitzel distillery in Kentucky,” representatives said.
The original distillery producing Dickel’s whisky was eventually forced to shutter its doors for good during the Prohibition era.
Finally, a quarter-century after Prohibition was repealed, a new distillery was opened down the road from the original Cascade Hollow Distillery and began producing the whisky known as Geo. A. Dickel Tennessee Whisky. That liquor was bottled starting in 1964 and released as Dickel Black Label Old No. 8 and Dickel Tan Label Superior No. 12.
“Today, our Distiller carries on the tradition of excellence that has made our brand a symbol of quality for over 150 years.”
Ask any of the tour guides about comparisons to another iconic Tennessee spirit, and you’ll only hear references to their neighbor down the highway. In essence, Dickel isn’t in the business of competing against Jack Daniel’s; it’s in the business of making Tennessee whisky.
Tennessee whisky is nearly identical to bourbon, save for one important distinction: the Lincoln County Process. This process sees whiskies mellowed or filtered through charcoal chips, which distillers say brings out notes of maple, butter and smoke in the liquor.
“By undergoing the Lincoln County Process, it allows the ability to produce a wide range of flavors and aromas in our whisky offerings,” distillery officials said. “For Cascade Hollow General Manager and Distiller Nicole Austin it gives a lot to work with to produce many different whisky styles—our traditional, bold Tennessee whisky style; a more balanced bourbon style; as well as some really interesting special releases.”
The distillery produces 10 different whiskies out of its Cascade Hollow distillery, including its Foundation Recipe, Classic Recipe, Rye, Barrel Select, Barrel Proof and some newer special releases.
The distillery was lauded with a 2019 Whisky of the Year award from Whisky Advocate for its Bottled in Bond, made from the brand’s Fall 2005 whisky, which is described as a “bold and balanced” 11-year-old whisky bottled in 2008. The liquor offers notes of pecan, maple syrup and dried apple, according to the brand.
Last year, the brand introduced Dickel Bourbon, a handcrafted, small-batch bourbon aged for eight years and blended. The liquid boasts initial notes of vanilla before moving into notes of cherry and orange before ending with hints of almond toffee and oak.
“For Cascade Hollow Distilling Co.’s General Manager and Distiller, Nicole Austin, distilling whisky is truly an art form expressed through her expertise across engineering and science. To create the ultimate blend for Dickel Bourbon, Nicole sampled thousands of barrels in our inventory before selecting the final liquid. The result is a handcrafted, small-batch bourbon that’s been blended to perfection,” a representative said.
There are even specialty cocktails whisky fans can create with the Dickel line of whiskies. Locals in Tullahoma and Normandy know of the Dickel Drop, a combination of George Dickel Signature Recipe and SunDrop, but there is also a fall cocktail the distillery recommends: the East Nashville Morning.
- 1.5 oz Dickel Bourbon
- .25 oz coffee liqueur
- .25 oz blackberry honey
- 2 dashes Cherry Bark Vanilla bitters
Stir all ingredients over ice in a mixing glass until chilled and serve in a glass mug or rocks glass over a large ice cube; garnish with blackberry and an orange twist.