Waco’s Balcones Distilling is hardly a sleepy operation, with new whiskeys popping up in its portfolio from year to year and a seemingly constant evolution in the whiskeys themselves. Balcones has had a private selection program for its “1” Single Malt expression for some time now, but if you lived outside of Texas, you may never have come across one. Last summer the distillery decided to change that by expanding the program to 13 additional states and since then they’ve started to include other whiskeys in the program, as well. The distillery sent us one of their fancy, three-sample selection kits, so that we could better understand the kinds of whiskeys on offer to their private barrel customers. Each whiskey reviewed below was aged for nearly three years in Balcones’ production rickhouse. Let’s check them out.
Balcones True Blue Cask Single Barrel – This is our first taste of True Blue, which is made from 100% Texas blue corn and matured in a second-fill oak cask. The nose is savory, almost leathery, with notes of buttery creamed corn, chewy caramel, and dry oak. As it opens, baking chocolate emerges. The palate is creamy and rich. A bright burst of toffee and CrackerJack gives way to peppery spice and a subtle smokiness. Woody barrel notes are prevalent yet decently balanced, no doubt helped by the use of second-fill cooperage. The generous, smoldering finish brings out milk chocolate and candy corn. 124-129 proof. Barrel #17370. B+ / $60
Balcones Rye Single Barrel – This is an experimental batch of Balcones rye, so potentially not emblematic of what you’re likely to find in other rye single barrel releases. The mashbill on this one is 86% Texas-grown Elbon rye with the remainder being a mix of different roasts of German rye. The nose is surprisingly delicate with notes of sandalwood, cinnamon stick, black tea, and a bit of dark berries. The palate is all over the place with a dizzying variety of flavors. In various sips I get chocolate and licorice, mint and clove, cocktail cherries and butterscotch, and all with a savory edge of barbecued meats. Not exactly a balanced whiskey, but a fun enough rollercoaster ride if you’re looking for something really different. 124-129 proof. Barrel #15193. B+ / $60
Balcones Texas Single Malt Single Barrel – The flagship of the program, this is Balcones’ standard single malt made from 100% Golden Promise malted barley. The nose is big and sweet with cotton candy, peach gummies, and a bit of furniture polish. As it opens in the glass, clove, fresh figs, dried apricot, and ground cinnamon emerge. The palate is oily and initially candy shop sweet with Pixy Stix and a variety of stone fruit notes: mango, lychee, ripe peaches, and waxy peach skins. A clove chewing gum note develops on the mid-palate, adding some spice to all that sweet fruit cocktail, while a bit of creamy caramel adds contrast to the sugar coating. A little dusty oak develops on the medium-length finish to further rein in some of the sweetness. One of the more unique and enjoyable American single malts I’ve encountered. 124-129 proof. Barrel #16694. A / $80