Whiskey aged in Tabasco barrels is as exciting as it is terrifying

Jelisa Castrodale

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The Prairie Fire, an eye-watering shot made by combining a generous splash of Tabasco sauce with whisky, tequila or moonshine, apparently originated as a form of punishment. According to Serious Eats, several decades ago, if patrons at a since-forgotten bar lost a bet, they’d have to chase a shot of booze with a shot of hot sauce. Fortunately, George Dickel is here to remind us how far we’ve come since the 1970s.

Your second favorite Tennessee distillery has announced the release of its George Dickel Tabasco Brand Barrel Finish, a whisky (spelled without the 'e') that spent 30 days resting in barrels that had previously been used to age Tabasco peppers. At the end of that month, Tabasco sauce is then “distilled to create an essence” which is blended with the whisky. The result is a spicy collaboration between the two brands, which is being sold in bottles that borrow Tabasco’s familiar pepper-red label and cap.

"George Dickel Tennessee Whisky and Tabasco are two of the most iconic brands the South has to offer for a reason – the craftsmanship that goes into creating these products is the real deal," Jeff Parrott, the Director of American Whisk(e)y Development at drinks giant Diageo said. "Both brands have such a rich history, and we're proud to collaborate with our friends at McIlhenny Company to marry their unique flavor with our quality Tennessee whisky."

Photo courtesy of Photo via George Dickel/Instagram

This isn’t the first time that a whisky company has tried to age its products in former hot sauce casks – although it may be the first time that the results have been drinkable. In 2016, Seattle’s Westland distillery released Inferno, an American single-malt whisky that was aged in a Tabasco barrel. “I was at first intrigued by the combination of warmth from the high ABV and the chile pepper cask, but the intensity quickly turns into insanity as the spiciness was unrelenting and borderline painful,” Axis of Whisky wrote after trying it. “Welcomed relief came in the form of numbness that set in during the long finish.” (And now that Prairie Fire-related punishment doesn’t seem so bad).

Several years before that, the Scotch Malt Whisky Society transferred four of its whiskies into former hot sauce barrels, hoping for “a smooth Scotch malt whisky with an extra warm afterglow.” The result was less warm than it was “OH GOD IT BURNS WHAT HAVE I DONE WHEN WILL IT END.” After two years in those “demonically fiery” casks, the resulting scotch was undrinkable even by the most masochistic members of the Society  – but it found a second life as a spicy cooking spirit called Hotscotch Sauce.

Dickel promises that its newest line addition provides both a “peppery kick” and a smooth finish, and hopefully it’ll be less painful than its predecessors. Still, it’s probably worth Googling “what to do when your mouth feels like the Human Torch’s armpits” before you pour that first round of shots.

Jelisa Castrodale

About Jelisa Castrodale

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