The George Dickel Distillery is only one of two legal Tennessee distilleries that are still in operation today—the other is the Jack Daniels Distillery. Dickel, a true craftsman, knew that location and resources were everything in the production of whisky and chose Cascade Hallow for its pure, sweet water and fertile land. The whisky still bears the label “George A. Dickel & Company” followed by “Cascade Distillery” and their motto “Mellow as Moonlight.” After moving to Louisville, Kentucky, when Tennessee passed the Manufacturer’s Act in 1910, Dickel’s whisky ceased to be made entirely with the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment. Dickel’s whisky was manufactured in different locations before its customers insisted on its return to the pure, sweet water of Cascade Hollow where it is manufactured today.
Germany in 1818, George Dickel immigrated to the United States and settled in
Tennessee in 1853 when he was 26 years old. A successful Nashville merchant, he
began selling liquor in 1861 and opened a retail liquor store in 1866. In the
late 1860’s he and his wife Augusta moved from Nashville to Cascade Hollow
where the ancient limestone shelf yielded sweet, pure water and fertile surrounding
land provided the grains that give Dickel’s whisky its smooth, dry mellow
palate. A distillery and liquor manufacturing license followed in 1884; the
birth of “Cascade Tennessee Whisky” occurred in 1888.
aspirations of concocting a unique whisky. Modeled Scottish whisky’s spelling
(omitting the “e”), Dickel did indeed create Tennessee whisky—a separate whiskey
category according to Federal regulation. In the process of “mellowing” he
“harshness and “fire” that is usually present in whiskey is removed through
filtering the whisky through charcoal. This process requires significant
amounts of time, care, and knowledge by nature. A link under Additional Information explains the process
in depth. Dickel experimented constantly to improve his whisky. He found that
whisky made in the winter tasted much smoother than the whisky he made in the
summer and began to only manufacture whisky in the winter months. Today,
staying true to his vision, manufacturers chill the whisky before it goes over
the charcoal in the mellowing process to manufacture it year round. The whisky
is aged up to twelve years in nearby warehouses with monthly samplings to ensure
it is aging properly.
George Dickel withdrew active participation in the business after he fell from
his horse, compounding his already failing health; six years later, Dickel
died. In 1894 George Dickel died after withdrawing active participation in the
business six years prior due to failing health compounded with a fall from his
horse. His wife Augusta guided the distillery to become the largest in
Tennessee in 1904 against George’s will, which instructed her to sell his share
to original business partner Shwabs. After Augusta’s death, Shwabs became the
owners of the distillery.
was enacted in Tennessee in 1910 with the passage of the Manufacturer’s Act,
stopping the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages. The George Dickel
Distillery moved from Cascade Hollow to Louisville, Kentucky, to produce whisky
at the Stitzel Distillery until it too was closed in 1917 when Kentucky adopted
prohibition. From 1919 to 1933 when the Eighteenth Amendment was enacted and
later repealed, distillers nationally had to cease production legally. The
Shwab family sold the trademark and recipe for the famous Casacade whisky to
Schenley Industries in Kentucky. Customers complained that the whisky,
manufactured with Kentucky water instead of Cascade Hollow water, was inferior
although Schenley Industries used the same recipe.
Industries returned production to the birthplace of Casacade whisky—Coffee
County, about one mile from the original Cascade Hollow location, and used the
same sweet and pure Cascade branch water source. However, a special referendum
was needed by the vote of Coffee County residents to allow the manufacture of
whisky because Coffee County remained dry even after the repeal of the
Eighteenth Amendment. Once Coffee County voters passed the legislation, Ralph
L. Dupps of Schenley Industries began building the new distillery. By July
1959, the distillery produced its first mash—a
mixture of grain, malt and water—and began the aging process of at least
six years. In 1964 Cascade whisky was again on the market.
the National Register of Historical Places added the Cascade Distillery site to
its numbers for its archaeological significance to understanding the culture
and process of the 19th century whisk(e)y industry of southern
Middle Tennessee. Visitors can see the physical remains of the original still
house and spring dam in addition to the distillery tour, visitor center and
“George Dickel General Store.” Visitors can even mail a letter from the only
working post office at any distillery in the United States.