George Dickel Barrel Program and The Meaning of Giving (Blatant Brand Promotion/Sappy Personal Story)

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I recently got an email from a publicist working for George Dickel Tennessee Whiskey asking if I’d like to get a couple of bottles of whiskey from their special barrel program, give one to a friend, and write about it. I said sure, why not? I love whiskey and I love friends. So first of all, let me reiterate, this is a essentially a promotion sponsored by George Dickel for which I received some free whiskey. But I’m game for the task at hand.

A few days later, a package arrived with a couple of seriously beautiful handcrafted wooden boxes, created by Jimmy Diresta, containing snub-nosed bottles of Dickel 9-year-old sour mash Tennessee whiskey. The deal is that retailers are able to select from special barrels, either 9-years-old or 14-years-old, and they then can sell the bottles. Let me start out by saying that this is better than your average Dickel whiskey. It’s much richer, more full-bodied and complex than what you might have tried before, but still lighter and woodier than a heavier, syrupy bourbon – which are delicious too, make no mistake. Right now, I’m sipping on a glass with one tiny rock, but I’m confident this would make a damn good Manhattan or old-fashioned. But enough about that, let’s get sappy.

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I gave the extra bottle I received to one of my best friends, Andrew. This has been a big year for him, with both peaking highs and precarious lows. On the high side, he added a brand-new, beautiful baby boy to his lovely family. On the low side, he was hit by a car while crossing the street and nearly killed, escaping with serious but healable injuries. This was a horrifying event for all who know and love him, especially his wife and daughter, and we are all glad this story had a happy ending, considering how horribly it could have turned out. Also, after years of drinking cheap beer, he recently began to truly enjoy the magic of spirits, specifically the brown stuff. Over the past 15 years that I’ve known him, Andrew would cringe at a shot, shy away from a Manhattan, and wave off a whiskey, neat, claiming he didn’t really enjoy it and his Miller High Life was just fine, thank you very much. But that’s all changed. Maybe it was the life-changing events he experienced over the past year, or maybe as the clock ticks inevitably towards 40 he realizes that dads who drink whiskey are cooler; whatever it is, as of late I’ve enjoyed many a dram with Andrew.

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Dickel’s PR talks about the whiskey as being “authentic, genuine, and Handmade the Hard Way,” and they’d love it if I could tie that in with my buddy Andrew. I think the first two adjectives describe him, but the last might be stretching it. At a recent holiday dinner at his house, I gave him this bottle of whiskey and he loved it. He was suffering from pine mouth at the time – for those that don’t know, it’s a condition that occurs for some people after eating pine nuts where everything you eat tastes bitter for a week afterwards (it’s horrible, I’ve had it) – and one of the only things he could consume that didn’t make him feel miserable was whiskey. So we drank. And we drank some more. I asked my wife to drive back to Brooklyn from his New Jersey home and we drank some more. I’m glad you are still here, Andrew, and I’m glad you are my pal.

Hey, go find a bottle of George Dickel’s Hand Selected Barrel Tennessee Whiskey at your local store, and happy holidays.

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