Interview: Nicole Austin on George Dickel Bottled in Bond

George Dickel General Manager and Distiller Nicole Austin is back with another bottled in bond. After two very well received releases from the past two years, the lineup continues with George Dickel Bottled in Bond Spring 2007.

What’s special about this iteration is that it singles out a specific distilling season. Autsin continues to innovate within the whiskey category, expanding George Dickel’s reputation for quality, while releasing interesting single barrels. We recently caught up with her to talk about her latest work, including helping grow the bottled in bond trend.

Beverage Dynamics: How do you follow up the successful first two George Dickel BiBs?

Nicole Austin: I’m really excited about the Spring 2007 release. The first two were super successful, and it’s hard to live up to that. But the third is an opportunity to prove that the distillery can produce whisky of that high quality all the time. And it shows that I didn’t just skim off the cream of the crop in terms of our whisky barrels for the first two.

I’m excited to see how people think this new bottled in bond compares with the first two. While there are a number of differences, I think people will be able to line up all three at once and see what they have in common — how they all share that George Dickel style. I try to stay close to that style with all three bottled in bonds, but there are subtle differences.

BD: Why has bottled in bond, a designation dating to the 19th century, become so popular again?

NA: As a style, it’s still so relevant now. Of course, it came about originally because of rampant fraudulent activity with whisky in the 1800s. Nobody is trying to put turpentine in bottles today. But it’s still just as relevant to consumers today, because they have to trust what they’re buying. It’s a mark of authenticity.

Bottled in bond is the closest we have to government-stamped approval. That’s partly why we chose that style, because we wanted a whisky that clearly says it’s from this distillery, showing how we have the capability for that level of quality.

I’m excited to see that bottled in bond has gotten a following, and I’m looking forward to establishing it as an ongoing thing.

BD: You signaled out the specific distilling season on this George Dickel BiB.

NA: That’s one of the lesser-known bottled in bond rules. That the product must come from a single season, a single six-month period, either spring or fall. It provides an extra challenge for distillers, because we cannot blend together many different age statements for a finely blended product.

It’s also partly why George Dickel Bottled in Bond is so limited. From a sixth-month period I may only get 10 to 12 lots that I think are good enough. That’s why I chose to put the season on this label. And the first George Dickel Bottled in Bond, I can say, was from Fall 2005, while the second was Fall 2007. This is our first spring release.

George Dickel Bottled in Bond Spring 2007. | Images Courtesy of George Dickel.

BD: What’s your response to all the accolades received by the first two BiB releases?

NA: I’m immensely flattered. It’s exactly what I hoped to achieve. A lot of people tend to gloss over Tennessee whiskey. A lot of people don’t understand that Tennessee whiskey is bourbon. Part of the point of our bottled in bond series is to create whisky that demonstrates that this is one of the great American heritage bourbons.

For a long time we didn’t have a lot of regionality in American spirits. Even five to ten years ago, we didn’t. Regionality is just beginning to pop up now. A lot of states are trying to create distinct identities and regionality. Before, it was easy to pass over the term Tennessee whiskey. Now, people understand it better as a wonderful regional style.

BD: What’s next from the Cascade Moon series?

NA: With Covid, I haven’t been traveling around as much, so I’ve had more time to sample more of our whisky. There’s a lot happening in terms of Cascade Moon, things I’m excited to explore. There are multiple Cascade Moons coming out in the near future. I can’t say much more than that, but they’re going to be delightful, and might seem a little odd at first.

Off-the-mark whiskies are part of the fun of single barrels. Cascade Moon, it’s meant to be about exploring. I love the idea of people sipping on something and finding it surprising.

Single barrels are partly why I took the job here. Our whisky inventory list, not many distilleries in America have the aged whisky stocks that we have. As a whisky enthusiast, I’m going to be exploring through all of that.

I’m happy to embrace the odd. But you can’t be weird for the sake of being weird. A lot of good, old Dickel really does hit the mark.

Kyle Swartz is editor of Beverage Dynamics magazine. Reach him at kswartz@epgmediallc.com or on Twitter @kswartzz. Read his recent piece 10 American Whiskey Trends in 2021.

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