Nicole Austin, an innovative, smart and feisty industry veteran, is taking over the helm at the distillery formerly known as George Dickel in Tullahoma, Tennessee. At the newly named Cascade Hollow Distilling Co., Nicole will act as both distillery manager and distiller. The role of master distiller at George Dickel has been empty since Allisa Henley left the Diageo family in July of 2016, just a year after her mentor John Lunn‘s departure.
The renaming of the Dickel distillery denotes a turning point; Nicole is expected to head up innovation strategies not only for the George Dickel brand, but also for new and innovative spirit brands for Diageo. This spot on the Tennessee Whiskey Trail has largely been a stepchild in the Diageo portfolio. Nicole is sure to be a breath of fresh air down in the Hollow, and we all should benefit from her presence there.
I first met Nicole while she was in her role as Master Blender at King’s County Distillery at the 2015 Bourbon Classic in Louisville, Kentucky. She was sitting on a panel of master distillers, surrounded by the likes of Fred Noe, Jimmy Russell, and Jim Rutledge. Not only was she one of just two distillers from outside the Commonwealth of Kentucky, she was the only woman on stage. She was salty and defiant in being singled out because of her gender. When the panel was asked about how to market whiskey to women, she simply replied, “Don’t.” She went on to explain how certain parts of her anatomy didn’t make her ability to taste and smell any different from the rest of the panel. We cheered.
Nicole left Kings County in 2012 to work with Dave Pickerell’s consulting firm and then joined William Grant & Sons as Project Commissioning Engineer at the Tullamore Distillery in Ireland. I first heard rumors that she was heading south around the first of the year. She confirmed that she was indeed making the trek from Ireland to Tennessee and was quite excited about it. We are, too. Welcome to Tennessee Whisk(e)y, Nicole!