Balcones Distillery in Waco TX is arguably THE biggest name in the Texas whiskey. Originally built in an old welding shop under a bridge, the last 10 years has seen rapid expansion for this grain-to-glass distillery as they have gone from strength to strength, building a very impressive reputation for themselves. Over these 10 years they have continued to consistently produce what’s been called the finest Texas whiskey under some of the most talented distillers the state has to offer. With a strong reputation for doing whatever it takes to make their whiskey taste the best, these guys use everything from secret propriety production techniques, carefully tailored fermentation for each recipe to get the best qualities from their yeast, barrels made to different sizes and several species of oak, Scottish-made copper pot stills for all their distillation, and all their whiskies are non-chill filtered.
Today I’ll be reviewing the Balcones Texas single malt which is the cornerstone of their core range and has won over 80 blind taste awards, including The Whisky Magazine’s American Single Malt of the year (at World whiskies awards) 2014-2016. Balcones Single Malt is neither a Scotch nor a bourbon but instead a Texas version of Scotch single malt whisky, made with unpeated 100% malted barley. What makes it different to other US Single Malts is the unique ageing process whereby small batches of 20 barrels (of different size and oak species) are mingled together before finishing maturation in one final big barrel. Balcones also age their single malt in new-charred oak barrels which further sets it apart. Like all of Balcones whiskies it is non chill-filtered.
Name: “1″ Texas Single Malt Whisky
Proof: 106 Proof (53% ABV)
Type: American Single Malt Whisky
Mashbill: 100% Malted Barley
Producer: Balcones Distillery, TX
Appearance: Deep Amber
Nose: On the nose you first get deep toffee and brown sugar with a hint of sweet tropical fruit, this is followed by malt, a slight hint of coffee and baking spices.
Palate: On the palate it is viscous and buttery with the mellow sweet notes of a tropical fruit salad before a wave of tingling malt, dark cacao, deep caramel and baking spices washes in with a dash of charred oak trailing behind.
Finish: The finish is long and spicy with an excellent aftertaste of fine dark chocolate and drying oak tannins.
Overall: Oh man is this stuff good! To be honest I never thought that I would be this impressed by a non age-stated single malt whiskey when I picked up this 30ml sample to see what all the fuss is about. I’m not a massive single malt drinker but if all single malts tasted like this my page might have been called something else. This whiskey does not hold back when it comes to rich, complex, and balanced flavours. The nose is incredible and the malt is still there but its mixed in with thick toffee, slight coffee and baking spices from what I assume to be the ageing in charred barrels. On the palate you can tell that this really wanted to be a light fruity single malt but the ageing in charred barrels has risen it to higher heights and thrown a bit of charred oak, some dark cacoa, and deep brown sugar caramel into the mix to make it an interesting, complex and deeply flavourful pour. The finish also left me very impressed with its aftertaste of dark chocolate unlike anything I’ve tasted in a whiskey before. Throughout I never got a big smack of alcohol, despite the proof. Instead Balcones have found the sweet spot for having higher than average proof with maximum flavour and almost no burn. This instantly strikes me as the gateway whiskey you’d pour for that friend who really loves his Scotch but is looking to explore American whiskies, and vice versa. This is the whiskey Balcones built their reputation on and from what I’ve tasted, it’s a pretty solid foundation.
As Balcones’ flagship whiskey I hope that this is only the tip of the iceberg. This whiskey is a great example of the level of quality and flavour that craft whiskies have to offer and I have to say it fills me with hope for what the future holds for both Balcones and the craft whiskey scene. There’s some real gem craft distilleries out there and Balcones is top of the list for me.
Try or Buy?
This whiskey really surpassed all my expectations with how good it was so to Balcones I say take my money! Personally, I think everybody needs to at least try this. This bottle has jumped to the top of my ‘to-buy’ list. I’d strongly recommend to anyone who reads this review and thinks ‘that sounds delicious!’ do the same – you won’t regret it!