Hello there again and howdy! I hope all of you are doing well and had a wee dram since the last time!
This post will explore a whisky that comes from Texas. I hope that we can get ‘in the know’ about this one. Why Texas? Well, that’s where I’ve spent most of my life, so I thought it would be fitting.
The Balcones Distillery is based out of a small Texas town called Waco. As reported in Forbes.com (Brown, Adam. “Finest New Whiskey in the World: Not from a Glen in Scotland but from Under a Bridge in Texas” Forbes.com March 26, 2014), it is beneath a bridge in Waco. This tells you that whisky is full of surprises and discoveries!
The Balcones Distillery is relatively new. It began receiving rewards in 2012 (distiller of the year from Whisky Magazine and the Craft Distillers’ Association). It continued to receive award after award as one of the best single malts in the world.
Now here is where it gets juicy… The craftsman behind Balcones is a gentleman named Chip Tate. Chip revolutionized what a Texas whisky would be. He developed the stills himself. He created the process. He then wanted to expand. In order to do that, he took on investors. According to reports, that didn’t go too well (Reitz, Scott. “The End of Balcones Whiskey as We Know it” dallasobserver.com December 30, 2014; Risen, Clay. “How Dreams and Money Didn’t Mix at a Texas Distillery” nytimes.com December 27, 2014). There was some amount of bickering that went on between Mr Tate and the investors. There were stories of threats with guns and torchings that went along with this! In the end, the investors bought out Chip and he is not allowed to make whisky until March 2016. Now with Chip’s reputation as an artisan, people are eagerly waiting to see what he will come up with then.
All right. Let’s put these stories aside and take a look at the drink! I had the opportunity to try one of the Balcones expressions a while back. I must say that I was very impressed. If one didn’t know that it was a whisky from the US, one would think they were drinking a scotch! It was so very complex! It was a pleasure trying out this whisky. The expression I tried was the ‘Classic Edition’. Let’s look at it a little more closely, shall we?
The name of the whisky: Balcones Single Malt; Texas Whisky; Classic Edition
The distiller of course is Balcones Distilling
There was no age statement on this whisky, but there was a batch number: Batch 1/7/2015. It is a strong whisky, 53% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Its color was beautiful! It was very dark amber. It had very strong legs and a strong cling ring.
The nose was very complex! I nosed it straight up first. I seemed to very much get strong bourbon notes, BUT… there seemed to be PEAT!?! I didn’t really understand this. I nosed it several times to make sure that I wasn’t imagining it. There were also notes of smoke, burnt caramel, charcoal, and toasted marshmallow… maybe smores? Definitely it was a campfire roasting marshmallows! There were also wood notes there- oak and some hints of vanilla.
I tasted it undiluted. It was crisp and astringent. There were lots of hone notes and lots of notes of oak and vanilla. What I found interesting was that though I seemed to nose bourbon notes, there were no heavy spice notes on the palate- maybe some hints of cinnamon.
As I mentioned before, it was a pretty strong whisky at 53% ABV. So I added a few drops of water to bring down the alcohol content and see what other notes I could find.
The nose on dilution brought out even more caramel notes. The notes of what I thought was peat seemed to reduce a bit. There was also an increase in the charcoal and honey notes. On tasting it with a few drops of water, I noted there was a slight drop in caramel notes, but an increase in vanilla. With the water added, I noticed a slight increase in the spiciness. There were some more cinnamon notes along with some notes of clove. Additionally, there were some more charred wood notes as well.
The finish was lingering. It was astringent leaving a clean palate, but with lasting notes of charred wood, vanilla, and honey. This is definitely something you would enjoy sipping for a very long time!
So… 93 points out of 100! I think that’s a very good score for an amazing whisky! Of course, as I’ve mentioned before, these are MY opinions and I am not imposing them on you. They are just what I think of the whisky. I hope to do a post on how I do my scoring sometime soon.
This a very interesting and a very beautiful whisky. It is extremely complex! At first nose and taste, one would think this is a peated, bourbon/ sherry casked scotch! Did I say that it is beautiful and complex? I see why there was so much commotion about this whisky! I also noticed that Balcones spells whisky without the ‘e’ like the Scots do- it moves away from the traditions of bourbons, etc. I think Balcones Whisky truly did revolutionize Texas whisky. If you go on their website, there is a quote from Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2013, “Balcones are unquestionably the masters of big whisky in the USA outside of Kentucky and Tennessee.” It has truly opened my eyes and palate to whiskies outside my usual realms of whisky!
So once again I raise a glass of whisky to all of you and say ‘Slànte!’ I wish all of you all the best until next time.
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With this I will close this post of the dMann’s Whisky Notebook. I would like this to develop into something that will allow you to get ‘in the know’ regarding whisky. I hope to come up with some sort of cool tagline that I can close with. But until then, I would like to remind everyone that, those who are in the know, enjoy their whisky responsibly.