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Born in 1818, George Dickel founded a retail business in Nashville, Tennessee, in the 1850s. He went on to buy a controlling interest in the distillery in The Cascade Hollow distillery in 1884, an enterprise originally established by John F. Brown and F. E. Cunningham in 1877 (bottles claim 1870). He also purchased exclusive rights to bottle and sell the whisky.
In 1888, George Dickel sustained such serious injuries in a horse fall that he was forced to withdraw from operations at the distillery. He died in 1894, leaving his share in the distillery to his wife Augusta, along with the advice to sell out, advice she had yet to enact when she died in 1916, partly because her family, the Schwabs, had been successfully managing the business. George's brother-in-law and long-time business partner V. E. Shwab took over control after Augusta died.
In 1910 Tennessee Prohibition gave distillers one year’s notice to cease operations, so Shwab was forced to move distilling to Kentucky. However, when federal law in 1919 enacted National Prohibition, operations ceased altogether.
Shwab did not live to see the repeal of Prohibition in 1933 and his family sold the Cascade Whisky trademark to the Schenley Distilling Company in 1937. During the 1940s and 1950s, Schenley marketed Geo. A. Dickel's Cascade Kentucky straight bourbon whisky, produced at their OFC Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky.
Schenley rebuilt and reopened The Cascade Hollow distillery in 1958 under the supervision of Master Distiller, Ralph Dupp, who also acquired George Dickel's original manuscripts detailing the recipe and processes previously used to make Cascade Whisky. The first bottle of ‘real’ George Dickel Tennessee Whisky to be distilled post Prohibition was bottled in 1964. Due to the Cascade brand having gained a reputation as a low-price value brand, it was decided to use George Dickel's name as the trademark.
The Tennessee bottling operation was closed in the 1980s and since then George Dickel has been trucked by tanker for bottling elsewhere, Stamford, Connecticut and Canada.. Through a series of mergers and acquisitions, what is now Diageo Plc owns the Dickel brand and Cascade Hollow Distillery.
A surge in the production of George Dickel during the 1990s caused aged stocks to build up, leading to the distillery being mothballed to allow a rebalance of supply and demand. Sadly it did not reopen until 2003, a delay which led to a shortage of Dickel Old No. 8 in the years immediately preceding the Millennium. This may have had some bearing on Diageo’s decision to launch its younger, 3 year-old George Dickel expression, under the distillery’s original Cascade Hollow brand (full name ‘George Dickel Old-fashioned Cascade Hollow Batch Recipe’).