CS&D Podcast Episode 9: Nicole Austin of George Dickel Takes a Thoughtful and Contextual Approach to Blending Beautiful Whiskies

There’s no one best way to blend whiskey—but for this award-winning distiller and blender, the key is taking an approach that fits the intended goal.

Sydney Jones Jun 25, 2024 - 3 min read

CS&D Podcast Episode 9: Nicole Austin of George Dickel Takes a Thoughtful and Contextual Approach to Blending Beautiful Whiskies Primary Image

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Nicole Austin has spent time in distilleries around the world, but if there’s one thing she’s learned from producing at distilleries both tiny and very large, it’s that no single blending strategy works at every scale, for every product, or with each kind of spirit. Today, as director of George Dickel and luxury American whiskey for Diageo, she has extensive tools at her disposal—from deep stocks of long-aged Tennessee whiskey to modern lab equipment. The nexus of that deeper palette of whiskies with which to blend—and deeper knowledge of those whiskies and how they age—is paying off with a number of releases that are piquing the interest of whiskey lovers.

In this episode, Austin sits down with host Sydney Jones for a distiller-to-distiller conversation on the intricacies of blending. Along the way, they discuss:

  • how rigorous approaches to blending can lead you astray
  • altering the blending approach based on the age of the spirit and ultimate intention for the release
  • managing blends with very small casks
  • safe assumptions and techniques for validating them
  • understanding gas chromatography and its place in the blending process
  • the challenge in discovering and delivering “house character” that speaks to the blender while resonating with drinkers
  • building a sustainable business structure
  • contemporary projects, including the three-chamber rye blend with Leopold Brothers
  • the multimode consumption of truly great whiskey

And more.

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Sydney Jones is the Head Distiller for FEW Spirits in Evanston, IL, and has been working in the distilled spirits industry since 2016. Sydney is also a regular contributor to Artisan Spirit Magazine and American Craft Spirits Association publications, including the newly released e-book, “The ACSA Guide to Starting and Operating a Distillery.”