George Dickel Distillery – Normandy, TN

I sat here last night trying to think of somewhere to ride today (06/27/2009).  I’ve covered a lot of the interesting sites in Middle Tennessee, certainly nowhere near all of them, but a lot of them, and ridden a lot of miles in this area.  One of my close friends gave me a book recently entitled “Tennessee – Off The Beaten Path” and it describes a lot of interesting places all across the state of Tennessee.  While browsing through it I realized I had never been to the George Dickel Distillery near Tullahoma, TN.  I also found an interesting place in Shelbyville, TN to stop for breakfast and then decided that I would stop in Bell Buckle, TN on the way back home.  Plans in place I dumped a few waypoints to my GPS and called it a day.

Saturday morning when I headed out it was already getting hot at 8:00.  The thermometer on my VFR showed 80° and I suspect the humidity was running in the 60% range.  Running down I-24 at 75mph in a mesh jacket I was still sweating.  But I made it to Shelbyville, TN and made my way to Pope’s Cafe on the square for a good breakfast.

Huh?  Closed?  What the heck?  A sign in the window says that Pope’s Cafe closed in 2007 however there are still 5 other places around the public square to eat.  A quick turn around the square determined that on Saturday morning all 5 of them are also closed!  Damn!  Oh well, that’s what the “Find” tool on my GPS is for and it showed a Waffle House in Tullahoma about 20 miles away in the direction I was headed.

So, fueled up after my stop at Waffle House I head for the Dickel Distillery a few miles away.

The site is located on Cascade Springs which is the source of the water used for their whisky.  The first bottle was produced in 1870, and is produced today in much the same way it was then.  The distillery closed in 1910 because of Prohibition (Tennessee Prohibition went into effect 10 years before National Prohibition!) and did not reopen until 1958 when the distillery was rebuilt by Master Distiller Ralph Dupps.

The Dickel web site has a lot of interesting information about the distillery, how they make their whisky, and so forth.  It’s and interesting web site and a great tour if you are in the area.  Oh, and no I did not misspell “Whisky”.  Check out their web site!

I visited the Jack Daniels Distillery down the road at Lynchburg, TN in November, 2006 (photos of that trip are Here) and was surprised at both the similarities and differences between the two sites.  The distillation processes are similar in both, not exactly the same but similar.  Both are “Charcoal Mellowed” by filtering the distilled spirits through huge vats of charcoal.  Both are “Blended” whiskies in that when they prepare to bottle a batch all of the designated barrels are opened, poured into a vat, and blended together so that any minor differences from one barrel to the next are minimized.  Likewise, both facilities are spotlessly clean.

One difference was apparent to me though.  When I visited the Jack Daniels Distillery one thing that stood out was the fact that much of the piping I saw was copper with very little PVC or stainless steel.  Not so at the George Dickel Distillery.  All of the piping there was stainless steel or PVC with nary a piece of copper to be seen.  I don’t know whether one is better than the other or not, only that they are different.

Supposedly Jack Daniels has a much higher rate of production, and according to our tour guide at the Dickel distillery that’s the way they want it.  The George Dickel Distillery is a low-production facility by choice.  They don’t advertise much because their sales already match their level of production and if there was a demand for more they couldn’t meet it.