Jack Daniel's Vs George Dickel: How The Top Tennessee Whiskeys Differ

You'd almost have to be a teetotaler to not know the name, Jack Daniels, especially as this Tennessee icon fuels the world's whiskey market to an extraordinary degree. It's certainly the top-selling Tennessee whiskey globally and domestically and reportedly lands in the top five premium-branded spirit sales across all categories. That's saying a lot for a state known just as much for country music, Memphis barbecue, and Nashville hot chicken

But there's another premium whiskey that gives Jack a run for its money, known as George Dickel, named for a 17th-century German-born immigrant who became instrumental in furthering the concept and spread of copper-stilled sour-mash whiskeys. The Dickel brand now takes the second spot for worldwide Tennessee whiskey sales. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these two major spirit players own the largest distilleries in the state, located just minutes from each other in south-central Tennessee. They may seem like two peas in a whiskey pod, but some distinct differences exist between the two, such as production volume, price, and a slight difference in mash bills.  

Jack Daniels whiskey

Jack Daniels gets its name from founder Jasper Newton "Jack" Daniel, who officially established the whiskey enterprise in 1866. The young Daniel had earlier been learning hands-on distillation techniques at a preacher's family farm, deeply influenced by an enslaved man named Nathan "Nearest" Green. Green was later freed and became head distiller, bringing along techniques that now define the state's whiskey.

Like George Dickel, and almost any distiller laying claim to the moniker of "Tennessee whiskey," Jack Daniels adheres to a 2013 state law requiring the use of the Lincoln County Process, which filters new spirits through layers of sugar maple charcoal before maturing in new charred oak barrels. The technique, which Green referred to as "charcoal leaching" removed impurities, and produced a smoother, mellower flavor. Though both whiskeys, Jack and Dickel have subtle variations in their top notes. For example, Jack Daniels Old No. 7 mash bill has considerably more malted barley, which results in a nuttier flavor. 

Jack Daniels whiskey is now part of the enormous Brown-Forman spirits company, expanding beyond its core Old no.7 product. It now offers a single-barrel collection as well as flavored whiskeys bearing names such as Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey, Fire, and Apple. These new incarnations of Jack Daniels bring more variety and complexity to the brand name. Tennessee whiskeys from George Dickel, on the other hand, stick mostly to core characteristics, modified for things like aging, barrel techniques, and signature releases.

George Dickel whiskey

George Dickel whiskey also bears the name of a Tennessee pioneer in the world of whiskey. Dickel immigrated from Germany to America in the 1800s, dabbling in many facets of alcohol production, distribution, and distilling, most famously the Cascade Hollow Distillery known for copper distillations and sour-mash whiskeys. Who knows if Dickel and Daniel ever crossed paths during their years in Tennessee, but products bearing their names still adhere to core whiskey-making elements defining the spirit.

Like Jack Daniels, George Dickel is now part of a large spirits conglomerate, Diageo, home to 200-plus brands. However, Dickel remains a small regional brand making hand-crafted Tennessee whiskey, embracing the longtime slogan of "handmade the hard way." Their line includes several iterations of Tennessee whiskey, and they've also expanded to include Dickel Bourbon.

When it comes to the mash bill, the George Dickel 9-year Tennessee whiskey includes more corn, at 84%, than the Jack Daniels no. 7 at 80%, resulting in tasting notes that are slightly sweeter and more mellow. From nose to palette to finishes, they shares characteristics ranging from caramel to oak and black pepper. But Dickel is known to have a smokey finish with hints of maple, while some consider Jack to have a slight charcoal aftertaste and spicy finish. For many consumers, choosing between the two Tennessee titans may come down to price, where George Dickel is often less expensive than its more well-known counterpart.