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  1. #1
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    Dickel Rx Whiskey

    In a discussion of United Distillers bourbons in another topic group, Chuck Cowdery mentioned Rx, an obscure brand marketed by them.

    RyanStotz said, "They're still making Rx? No freaking way. Of all the things UD decides to keep selling, they pick Rx. My mind doesn't get blown very often, but this did it. Did it sell particularly well in KY/IN, or do they just have labels they need to use up?"

    They didn't keep Rx, per se. They kept George Dickel, and Rx is one of their brands. It's export only, I believe. I've never tried it, but I'll be bringing some pre-1964 Cascade Kentucky Bourbon with me for friends to taste and if anyone's tried Rx they can confirm whether it's very similar. If so, then I'd have to say Rx is some pretty fine whiskey -- the Cascade sure is.

    When Dickel moved from Frankfort (actually, from what is now the Buffalo Trace distillery) to Tullahoma, Tennessee in 1958, the Cascade Bourbon brand (owned by Schenley) remained in Kentucky. The new Tennessee product was called Cascade Tennessee Whisky, a somewhat confusing situation that lasted only until 1964 when it took the George Dickel name.

    Way back in 1910, Cascade Whisky, like its Tennessee brother Jack Daniels, had fled the state as a result of prohibition (a decade before the rest of the country went dry). They brought their whole Lincoln County charcoal filtration system with them and set up shop at Stitzel (later to become Stitzel-Weller). Prohibition put a stop to actual production, but Stitzel had a license to produce whiskey "for medicinal purposes" and it continued to sell warehoused Cascade product all through prohibition. It's this whiskey that the modern Rx label is supposed to commemorate.

    In 1935, Stitzel combined with W. L. Weller and Sons to form Stitzel-Weller, and in 1941, sold Cascade, and the Tennessee process by which it was made, to the George Stagg distillery in Frankfort. Interestingly, it was at this exact time that Jack Daniel's Reagor Motlow found it necessary to make a personal crusade into the Federal Internal Revenue Department's legal halls with the express purpose of defining "Tennessee Whiskey". And, in doing so, ensuring that any product made that way could NOT be called "bourbon". The fact that Jack Daniel's was the only distillery located in Tennessee (a requirement for the designation) made it illegal for Cascade (its only competition in making that style of whiskey) to call itself EITHER Bourbon, OR Tennessee Whiskey... a real competitive victory. Why this happened just as Cascade had changed hands, I don't know. Maybe Motlow had hoped to purchase the company and when that didn't happen, made a move to destroy it. Pure speculation here; more study is needed; send funds to...

    But Cascade wasn't destroyed. In fact, it continued to call itself "Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey". I'm not sure how it did that. Perhaps the Internal Revenue Department's definition isn't legally binding (in the same way that the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms' definitions are). Or maybe they simply made a change in the way Cascade was made. Even if the leeching were not done strictly by the Lincoln Process (wherein the raw spirit is run through about ten feet of sugar-maple charcoal before being put into the barrels for aging), they could still use the tanks and the sugar-maple charcoal to filter the whiskey AFTER aging, which they might have done (again, pure speculation). At any rate, the whole show closed down in the mid-'60s when the Cascade label was retired. Schenley, who purchased the Stagg distillery and changed it to Ancient Age, sold the Cascade label (along with George Dickel) back to Stitzel-Weller, but the idea of running the dumped bourbon through the sugar-maple charcoal tank AFTER aging (which is Rx's claimed process) was already firmly established by then. Could that have been the forerunner of Rx?

    =John=
    http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey

  2. #2
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    Re: Dickel Rx Whiskey

    John,
    Rx is not a Tennessee whisky. Stitzel-Weller never owned the brand even though they did sell it for the Schwabs during prohibition. See my history of the brand in Tasting under Old Fitzgerald 1849.
    Mike Veach


  3. #3
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    Re: Dickel Rx Whiskey

    Jack Daniel's Reagor Motlow found it necessary to make a personal crusade into the Federal Internal Revenue Department's legal halls with the express purpose of defining "Tennessee Whiskey". And, in doing so, ensuring that any product made that way could NOT be called "bourbon". The fact that Jack Daniel's was the only distillery located in Tennessee (a requirement for the designation) made it illegal for Cascade (its only competition in making that style of whiskey) to call itself EITHER Bourbon, OR Tennessee Whiskey.

    I have never heard, nor can I find anything in the ATF regulations, indicating that a whiskey which follows the Lincoln County Process is prohibited from calling itself bourbon. My understanding is that all Motlow accomplished was to get congressional (not IRS) recognition of Tennessee Whiskey as a distinct whiskey type, thereby affording the name protection from misuse, particularly by importers. You will not, however, even find the term "Tennessee Whiskey" in the ATF regulations.

    I stand ready to be corrected, but that is my understanding.

    --Chuck Cowdery

  4. #4
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    Re: Dickel Rx Whiskey

    Chuck:

    > I have never heard, nor can I find anything in the ATF regulations,
    > indicating that a whiskey which follows the Lincoln County Process is
    > prohibited from calling itself bourbon.

    Correct. Jack Daniel's and Dickel are bourbons which use a mellowing process which allows them to engage in a little marketing tomfoolery. This has long been a pet issue with me, so I did my research and found, sure enough, that use of the LCP in no way precludes anyone from calling their whiskey bourbon.

    Stotz


  5. #5
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    Re: Dickel Rx Whiskey

    I don't know that I would necessarily call it "tomfoolery." I say that because I have long enjoyed the pissing contest between Jim Beam Brands and Brown-Forman. As the two largest producers of American Whiskey, they both have a large stake in how that product is perceived. Because most of what Beam makes is bourbon, they spend a lot of money pushing the position that American Whiskey has to be bourbon to be good. That is not so much because they believe it as because they enjoy tweaking their main rival, Brown-Forman, which has as its biggest sellers non-bourbons Jack Daniels and Early Times.

    In a way, it is much like the term "sour mash." Every American distiller uses the sour mash process, yet only a few choose to include the term on their label.

    Ultimately, "bourbon" is a creature of the law, and that law only indirectly affects quality by requiring certain practices. As we all know, there are some pretty bad whiskeys that can and do call themselves "bourbon," and some pretty good ones that don't.

    --Chuck Cowdery

  6. #6
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    Re: Dickel Rx Whiskey

    Chuck Cowdery wrote:
    That is not so much because they believe it as because they enjoy tweaking their main rival, Brown-Forman, which has as its biggest sellers non-bourbons Jack Daniels and Early Times.


    I believe that if B-F could get it together and really promote Old Forester and the L&G brands, they could give JBB a serious run for their money. I've always been fond of Old Forester BIB, and their 86 version could probably compete well with Beam White Label. They have L&G Woodford Reserve to go up against the Small Batch line, and they should soon have something that nobody else has: pot-still bourbon.

    Then again, I'm still waiting for Jim Murray to learn how to spell "Garvin", so I'm not holding my breath (He did finally learn Booker Noe's last name...)

    Michael Shoshani
    Chicago



  7. #7
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    Re: Dickel Rx Whiskey

    Don't feel sorry for Brown-Forman. ("Don't cry for me, Argentina.") They compete very well with Jim Beam, effectively flanking Beam's flagship with Daniel's and Times. They have some catching up to do in the super premium segment, but they do have their jacked-up Jacks in addition to Labrot and Graham. Their net production of American Straight Whiskey is about the same as Beam's. (If you cheat a little and consider ET a straight, which it technically is not.)

    To me, the difference between the two is that for all the fussing Beam does about "bourbon," they are really just a marketing company (based in a Chicago suburb), that markets bourbon exactly the same way they market peppermint schnapps or, for that matter, faucets and golf balls. The only "whiskey men" in the company are the ones running the distilleries, which is a very good thing, but those guys have zero influence in Deerfield.

    Brown-Forman, on the other hand, is based in Louisville and still has members of the Brown family at the corporate helm. The Browns were never really distillers, but they are whiskey men, who understand and appreciate deeply the heritage of the craft. Just using the example of those two companies, the term "bourbon" doesn't seem quite so precious.

    --Chuck Cowdery

  8. #8
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    B-F vs. Fortune Brands (Beam)

    My information shows Jack Daniels as the best-selling American whiskey in the world (6 million cases reported in 1999, shooting for 10 million by 2007 according to B-F satements). (source: Sunday Business 9-17-2000) I don't think I'd feel sorry for them, either. Woodford Reserve (B-F) is reportedly the #2 selling small batch after Knob Creek (Fortune Brands). But let's also not despair about big corporations controlling all of the world's spirits. If I can believe statements made this month by John Bridendall, Senior VP of B-F, 85% of the spirits business...is in the hands of local and regional companies. While Fortune Brands and Brown-Forman are reasonably big, they are not huge when compared with Nestle, the world's largest food company for example.

    Greg


  9. #9
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    Re: B-F vs. Fortune Brands (Beam)

    Woodford Reserve would give Knob Creek a run for it's money if it were more available. Once L&G's pot-stilled bourbon(s) are dumped and bottled in 2002 your going to see oneupmanship par excelence. I love a good fight; be it boxing, mud-slinging politicos, or pissing contests. You'll see a sublime smile on Owlsley Brown's face when he pisses all over the suits in Deerfield! Such good clean fun!

    Linn Spencer

    Have Shotglass. Will Travel.

 

 

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