Thirsty Confederate Troops Helped in Cascade Distillery's Prosperity

**This article is copied from the Sesquicentennial Issue of the Tullahoma News and Guardian**

The George Dickel distillery is one of only two Tennessee distilleries that were revived after prohibition in 1919.  The distillery is located at 1950 Cascade Hollow Road in Tullahoma, right outside Normandy.

 

George Dickel Tennessee Whisky is affectionately referred as "Tennessee Sippin Whiskey."

 

According to legend, its unique slogan, “Mellow as Moonlight," was created when distiller McLin Davis discovered the whisky was improved by allowing mash to cool in the moonlight.

 

George Adam Dickel was born in Germany in 1818. When he was 26 years old, he immigrated to the United States, arriving in Nashville in 1847. 

 

During the Civil War, the arrival of Confederate troops demanding high quality whisky made the liquor profession highly lucrative.

 

Formerly the owner of a shoe and boot manufacturing shop, Dickel decided to enter the liquor trade in 1861.  George A. Dickel & Co. was established on N. Market in Nashville as a wholesale liquor distributor in 1870.  During that time, whiskies were bought by the barrel and blended to form a unique product.

 

Not long after George and Victor E. Shwab, George's partner and brother-in law, opened their company in Nashville, they met the McLin Davis family. The Davis family operated the Cascade Distillery in Cascade Hollow.

 

According to an article by Kay Gaston, called "Tennessee Distilleries: Their Rise, Fall, and Re-Emergence," Cascade Distillery was acquired by Matthew Sims and McLin Davis around 1883.

 

The pure water from Cascade Spring was a key ingredient in their quality whisky.

 

At that time, George Dickel began bottling and distributing Cascade Whisky from his retail firm in Nashville.

 

Cascade Distillery itself was never owned by George A. Dickel, but its whisky was sold as George A. Dickel's Cascade Whisky.  Gaston reports that Sims sold his share of the distillery in 1888 to Victor Shwab.

 

In 1898, the heirs of McLin Davis sold the remaining one-third interest in the distillery to Shwab, giving Shwab complete ownership of the distillery.

 

Shwab also eventually gained complete control of George A. Dickel & Co. in Nashville in 1894, when George Dickel died and left the company to his widow, Schwab's sister.

 

Therefore, in 1894, Shwab owned both George A. Dickel & Co. and Cascade Distillery.

 

At the time of George's death, George A. Dickel & Co. was known and respected worldwide for the quality of its Tennessee Cascade Whisky.

 

The whisky was available to the soldiers in the U.S. Army in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War.

 

Production ceased in 1911, when Tennessee was declared a "dry" state. The operation was then moved to Kentucky, where it prospered under the direction of Victor Schwab's son, George. 

 

In 1919, however, the Volstead Act, also known as Prohibition, banned the manufacture, transportation, and sale of beverages containing more than 0.5 percent alcohol:  As a result of prohibition, George A. Dickel & Co. was forced to cease operations. In 1933, prohibition was repealed by the adoption of the 21st Amendment.

 

In 1937, eighteen years after the distillery closed, Schenley, Inc. bought the company from the Shwab family.  They paid $100,000 for the company and the Cascade trademark. All rights and formulas were then given to Schenley Industries in Kentucky.

           

The Schenley operation did not produce the same whisky Tennesseans had grown accustomed to. It was considered a brand of bourbon, inferior to the bona fide Tennessee sour mash whisky.

 

The production of George Dickel Whisky in Tennessee was resumed in 1959, following a special referendum passed in Coffee County in 1958, allowing the manufacture of whisky again. The distillery was renamed the George Dickel Distillery when it was re-established, with Louisville distiller Ralph Dupps as head of operations.

 

It was built near the original site, in close proximity to its original water source, Cascade Spring.     Distillers claim the pure water of Cascade Spring is vitally important in the production of their world-renowned whisky

 

Although many brands of whisky today are produced in large factory-like distilleries, George Dickel whisky is still made the same slow, old-fashioned way, using the proven recipe and process that made it world-famous.

 

George Dickel & Co. is open Tuesday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and can be reached by website at georgedickel.com. or by phone at (931) 857-3124.  The website offers an online store, famous recipes using George Dickel whisky, and access to information about collector bottles.

 

The company is currently offering a limited edition collector's bottle called "Southern Sprigs."

In support of Ducks Unlimited's Habitat 2000 environmental conservation program, it features one of North America's most endangered waterfowl, the pintail.  The artwork on this special edition bottle was created by acclaimed wildlife artist Paco Young, whose artwork has been sold to raise millions for conservation efforts.

 

The website also provides information about the “Dickel Duel.”  The Dickel Duel is a blind taste test to determine if any other whisky brand is as smooth as George Dickel’s.  A team of girls referred to as the “Dickel Girls” conducts the test.  The folks at George Dickel encourage fans to conduct their own taste test.  Rules for the test can be found online.