Balcones for the US election

Chip Tait of Balcones

It’s a funny one, but you could argue that the UK is more interested in US politics than we are in our own. Extreme political views, televised debates, rock stars and actors all make us fascinated with the US election. I have seen, in the past 2 days, a video with Will Farrell and another video with Samuel L Jackson (well, he is in everything) telling people to vote. Arnie even managed to get a foothold in American politics (which I think is mind blowing & terrifying in equal measure).

We are not a political blog, but I thought since it’s election time that I would post up thoughts on a far better thing to be interested in than US politics; US whisky! Balcones Texan Whisky to be specific.

Balcones Texan Whisky (kindly supplied by the Great Whisky Company)

I have been interest in the US craft distilling scene for a while, and when I got the chance to sample Texas’ finest, I grabbed it with both hands. Chip Tate is the man in charge, and the real character behind the whisky. An ex-nuclear physicist, baker, brewer and now distiller, he has quite a specific and unique take on making whisky, and it shows in the results. Here are some of the technical aspects that make Balcones so interesting:

  • All made using 100% blue corn (except the single malt).
Blue corn is hard work (hard to mash, expensive) but by all accounts, it’s very high quality and worth the effort.
  • Small casks from 5 gallon up to 60 gallon barrels. Oak as been yard aged and air dried for 3 years.
The use of small casks give it a burst of flavour and shows the scale they are dealing in just now.
  • Little bits of French and European oak. Mixture of new, and first fill oak from their distillery.
An interesting twist, using different oaks. American whisky, rather than Bourbon, has freedom to do this kind of thing, which is great, because it gives all sorts of different flavours.
  • Direct firing stills. Long (7 to 8 days) fermentation giving a rich smooth taste.

Nice to see direct fire stills, it heats the wash in quite an interesting way. And I think Scotch whisky could do with increasing its fermentation times. So much flavour is generated from a slow fermentation.

  • They cold smoke some of the spirit with Texan scrub wood after distillation, before fermentation.

Sounds really interesting. I like different smokes on whisky. So enough of the build up, let’s try them!

Baby Blue
46% ABV
100% Blue Corn

Available on Pre Order from Royal Mile Whiskies

Nose: Mealy, a bit feinty at first. Then a sweet corn bread aroma powers through with hints of vanilla too. Slight creamy too. Not a bad nose. A young interesting whisky.

Palate: More rounded. Corn sweetness, honey cranachan. Like drinking liquid corn mixed with sugar and a bit of butter.

Overall: You could have some fun with this in cocktails. Not a bad start, but I expect the best is yet to come.

True Blue
61.5% ABV
100% Blue Corn (slightly older than the Baby Blue)
Available on Pre Order from Royal Mile Whiskies

Nose: Slightly sour corn, caramel, vinegar, olive oil.

Palate: More bitter than the Baby Blue. Quite complex, but I actually prefer the simplicity of the Baby Blue.

Texan Single malt
53% ABV
Golden Promise Barley from Scotland
Available on Pre Order from Royal Mile Whiskies

Nose: marzipan, vanilla, marshmallow, beer batter, butter. Yum!

Palate: After such a rich nose, it’s actually got quite a juicy, fruity orangey palate. I really enjoyed this whisky.

Balcones Brimstone
53% ABV
Smoked with Texan Scrub Wood
Available on Pre Order from Royal Mile Whiskies

Nose: Pork, bbq smoke, earthy, cedar wood, pork crackling and apple sauce. Varnish, calvados and marzipan. An awesome nose that shows the Texan scrub wood experiment has worked a treat.

Palate: Smoked Bavarian cheese. Applewood cheddar and pork in a sandwich. An epic whisky. So much flavour, so many wild notes. I love it. I reckon it’s good now, and it’s going to get better with age. Exciting stuff.

Overall: The Brimstone was the clear winner, but the others in the range were excellent. Wild, out there and of a very high quality. When they make it to the UK, buy them!

Chris Hoban


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