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In its annual, blind-tasted line up of the world’s best drinking whiskies, Whisky Advocate awarded the best whisky of 2019 to a budget-friendly, American selection from Tennessee, proving this year still has a few surprises left up her sleeve. George Dickel 13 year old Bottled in Bond Tennessee Whisky lead the pack of the Top 20, whose prestigious selections include whiskies from England, Japan, Ireland, Scotland, and not just a few Kentucky bourbons and ryes.

With just a $36 bottle price tag at the time and place of the blind tasting, this is excellent news for those American whisky aficionados who would otherwise be willing to shell out several times that much for just a single pour of the highly allocated Van Winkle and Antique Collection whiskies that make themselves available this time of year.

George Dickel 13 year old Bottled in Bond Tennessee Whiskey on Drizly, price and availability varies regionally

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Note: The price you’ll pay, whether online or at your local liquor store—can vary widely by region and demand. We’ve seen $39.99 and $99.99 on Drizly, and prices elsewhere also run the gamut, with suggesting a price of $43.99 (though it’s not currently in stock). It wasn’t crowned #1 because of its low price tag anyway, but if you have to pay more, you’ll likely want to know just what makes it so good.

The Winning Whisky

Deconstructing the winning whisky’s bottle helps to understand the success of the product contained within. What are all the elements behind a Tennessee-based, 13 year old, bottled in bond whisky?

Most Tennessee whisky technically qualifies as bourbon based on mash bill, barreling, and aging requirements, but most Tennessee whisky brands eschew the marker in order to preserve regional distinction and specificity. Additionally, most Tennessee whiskies, including Dickel selections, undergo a process of charcoal filtration known as the Lincoln County Process, which filters the distillate and produces a distinct smoothness.

George Dickel, which has been producing Tennessee whisky since 1964, is the second-largest maker of the style, behind its extremely famous—to put it lightly—sibling, Jack Daniels. The 13 year old, bottled in bond from George Dickel maintains a robust, corn-heavy mash bill that gives it a richness of flavor, with the subtlest hints of spice and grass from rye and barley.

What Does ‘Bottled in Bond’ Mean?

Bottled in bond whiskies are those that adhere to a set of legal requirements set up by the United States government in 1897 that aimed to combat adulteration in the distilling process, and offered a tax incentive to distillers in order to do so. To use the label distinction, spirits must be the product of a single distillation season, by a single distiller, at a single distillery. The most unusual aspect of this is the single season distinction, which is par for the course with vintage-dated beverages like wine, but much less common among distilled spirits, whose age statements typically only tell you what the youngest product is within a blend of seasons contained in any given bottle. With the winning Dickel bottling, we know that the product was produced entirely in the 2005 season and bottled in 2018 at 13 years old for release in 2019.

In addition to a few other requirements involving length and location of the aging process, bottled in bond spirits must be bottled at 100 proof—50 percent alcohol by volume—which is a bit higher than normal for non-cask-strength whiskies, which are typically bottled between 40 and 45 percent.

The result of all of this in the George Dickel 13 year old Bottled in Bond Tennessee Whisky is a powerful yet smooth spirit with sweet and spice characteristics that drinks with the with the complexity of a good amount of age, but is nonetheless value driven since Tennessee whisky doesn’t command the same price point as the bourbons made one state over. Whisky Advocate’s Jeffery Lindenmuth describes the winning spirit as “soft around the edges yet (delivering) plenty of intensity,” with tasting notes of “orange marmalade and caramel apple…burnt sugar, Mexican chocolate, chocolate-covered almonds, and toffee.” He also highlights certain nutty aromas that evoke “memories of cracking open a school lunch box.”

Grab a last-minute bottle of 2019’s number one whisky for your number one whisky drinker, sure to make you number one in his or her eyes this whisky drinking season.


Header image courtesy of Bryan Bedder/Stringer/Getty Images.

Pamela Vachon is a freelance writer based in Astoria, NY whose work has also appeared on CNET, Cheese Professor, Alcohol Professor, and Diced. She is also a certified sommelier, voiceover artist, and an avid lover of all things pickled or fermented.
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