Distiller Nicole Austin Shines Brightly with Cascade Moon Whisky Release

Cascade Moon is Cascade Hollow’s first non-Dickel whisky release

Cascade Moon Whisky from Cascade Hollow Distilling Co.
Cascade Moon is the new umbrella brand for Austin’s specialized whisky blends.

In March of 2018, Diageo simultaneously announced Nicole Austin as the new hire for George Dickel and that George Dickel would now be known as Cascade Hollow Distilling Co. Citing room for Austin to innovate, the name change, at the time, seemed in itself hollow. The multi-national conglomerate behind George Dickel wasn’t known for leading the charge into uncharted whiskey territory with this traditional Tennessee brand.

If we skip over Dickel Tabasco (and don’t mind if we do) the most creativity coming out of the Tullahoma distillery prior to 2018 was in the stories being fabricated about poor, lost orphaned barrels suddenly brought to daylight by one miraculous discovery after the next. It’s not that previous distillers like John Lunn and Allisa Henley weren’t creative, but it’s fair to say that their creative flames were not being fanned by Diageo during their tenures.

Enter Nicole Austin.

Perhaps it was the consecutive losses of long time distillers Lunn and Henley that shook Diageo out of a comfortable slumber. Maybe it was the rising tide of new Tennessee distillers that lifted their sails. Whatever the motivation, Diageo finally saw the need to meet a changing marketplace, created Cascade Hollow Distilling Co. as an entrepreneurial entity, and found in Austin the perfect storm of talent, imagination, experience, and no-nonsense charisma. Luckily for Austin, her predecessors left behind all sorts of fun maturates to play with.

Austin appeared on CBS This Morning in May to discuss the Bottled in Bond whisky.

Austin’s first project, the 2019 George Dickel Bottled In Bond, won the prestigious title of Whiskey of the Year. Bottled In Bond continues as a seasonal release, pulled from varying lots of barrels identified for their special characteristics. It was this arduous process of examining the vast barrel inventory that led Austin to the liquid that would become the first non-Dickel product to come out of Cascade Hollow Distillery, Cascade Moon Whisky. Paying homage to the distillery’s history, Cascade Moon revisits the old tagline ‘mellow as moonlight’.

Cascade Moon Edition No. 1 is a blend of two distinct straight whiskys, but only one of them is technically a Tennessee whisky. The base liquid is a 16 year old refill cask whisky. This is the traditional Dickel mash bill and method, but placed into used cooperage to age. All bourbon and Tennessee whisky must be aged in new barrels, so this whisky was always destined for another life. It was combined with 11 year old Tennessee whisky to create Cascade Moon Whisky.

I had the opportunity to visit the distillery and taste a few things with Austin in advance of the release of Cascade Moon. Cascade Hollow is much quieter these days as the distillery is closed for tours and the visitor center is open only on the weekends. Socially distanced, we explored the components of Cascade Moon as well as a few other things we can’t talk about quite yet.

Making up about 82% of the blend, the 16 year old whisky on its own is a funky, unique mouthful. The used cooperage allowed this whisky to age in a much different manner, taking on a fruity, minty, slightly salty flavor without the strong presence of wood. Immediately, there’s a gush of salivary response, similar to the first few chews on a stick of gum. “The inspiration for this whisky was the gose beer style- sour, juicy, fruit notes and this weird, savory character that this particular base liquid had,” Austin explains.

“It’s funky, right? It’s such an interesting whisky. But I thought it was too weird [on its own]. I needed to do something with it to make it palatable and delightful,” she continues. The addition of the 11 year old Tennessee whisky and the choice of 42% ABV balances the blend with a touch of oak and vanilla to do just that. The finished product, labeled only as “whisky,” is complex and thought provoking, sharing no overlap with any other product. Austin describes her goals for this whisky as wanting it to be “unexpected and future-thinking” but not necessarily “challenging” for consumers.

Also setting this whisky apart is the choice of packaging. It’s beautiful and artistic, bordering on feminine, with minimal descriptors. Again, she pulled inspiration from sour beers and even wine for the labeling. “I wanted them to be like no other whisky. I didn’t want them to have any traditional whisky signifiers.” Instead of cluttering the label with particulars, Austin chose a QR code that takes you to a website where “all the nerdy details” can be found.

Artistic and minimalist label design allows the consumer to get as much information as they like. Or not.

The very limited Edition No. 1 of Cascade Moon will be available at the distillery visitor center and released to retail in Tennessee, Texas, and California only. Suggested retail price is $90. Further editions of Cascade Moon will follow, with Edition No. 2 as early as this Fall and Edition No. 3 in Spring of 2021. Look for continued nods to the history of the distillery as well as highly limited stock.