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December 11, 2020 37 min

In this episode, General Manager & Distiller of George Dickel Tennessee Whiskey Nicole Austin talks with us about the traditions in Tennessee Whiskey, the idea of imbibing a place, and why she doesn’t use the title “Master Distiller.”

A wonderful primer into the nuances of whiskey-making in general, Nicole offers insights into the art of distilling, and how to make choices based on both tradition and the drive to succeed as a business. In the meantime, she dispels some myths about the whiskeys of Tennessee and talks about its relation to bourbon.

This is Part Two of our two-part conversation. We hope you enjoy it—you can find part one or check out our other Spirit School entries on our website (, or browse conversations with some of the world’s best bar professionals in our Masterclass Series.

Nicole Austin came up in Kings County Distillery in the early days of the Craft Spirits movement, breaking into the business with a degree in Chemical Engineering and a desire to work in spirits.

From her interview with The Tennessean: “I didn’t have the right last name to work in Kentucky or the right degree for Scotland, so I was like, ‘What am I going to do?’ ” Austin said. “In 2010, Kings County got the license to distill … and I basically knocked on their door and was like, 'I’m going to work for you now. I’m done asking, I’m telling.’ ”

After working for the consulting company of the legendary late distiller Dave Pickerell, she took a job with Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey before being tapped for the top-job at Cascase Hollow Distillery, maker of George Dickel Tennessee Whiskey.

An advocate for the craft spirits movement, Ms. Austin helped found the American Craft Spirits Association, New York Distillers Guild, and helped create the idea of Empire Rye.

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