Sunday, 17 March 2013

Whisky Discovery #345

Balcones Brimstone NAS (53% abv)
Texan Corn Whisky
Circa £65.00 75cl
The Balcones Whisky Mission part four brings me to purification through fire - a Texan oak fire that is, with Brimstone

Brimstone was launched in May 2011 and rather than using Scottish peat smoke, this 'one of a kind whisky' is smoked with sun-baked Texas scrub oak using Balcones own secret process. The result is a whisky full of fresh youthful corn and light fruit notes married with a bold smokiness.

Whether you like smoky whiskies, or just have a penchant for big, new flavours  Brimstone is sure to be memorable pour. Aromas of masa (a corn dough), Texan camp-fire and powdered sugar tempered with an almost salty goodness. Bold yet balanced, Brimstone is yet another Texas first from Balcones. Brimstone is the world's first wood smoked whisky ... a Texan camp-fire in a bottle.

This is another of Balcones corn whiskies made from roasted Atole, the Hopi blue corn meal. In all there are currently four Balcones whiskies using this corn, Baby Blue, True Blue Cask Strength, True Blue 100 and this Brimstone.

Brimstone was one of the whiskies being talked about after last years Whisky Live London, there was a great deal of interest on Twitter after the show, but unfortunately Kat and I didn't stop at Chip's stand. The buzz around Brimstone repeated itself after The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show last October too and again we missed it. One comment I do recall from the twitter exchanges was that this needed to be one of the later whiskies you should taste, i.e. don't start your show with this one as the flavours are very powerful and it has an incredibly long finish.

So What Did We Think?
Kat: Like the other two I've tasted, Brimstone still retains a smooth silky quality. This is a smoky whisky but of the charred wood variety. This too was a high ABV, however I didn't feel the need to add any water to this. Here’s what I thought.

Nose:  Initially it made me think that it’s been finish in a rum cask as I got a strong sweet aroma of Demerara sugar and bitter sweet notes from molasses. This was followed by an aroma of fresh bread that’s at room temperature (not the same smell as bread hot out of the oven), then by a strong charred oak aroma and bitter tannins. Vanilla notes starts to come through towards the back, for me this was exactly like the smell of Nielsen- Massey vanilla extract that I had in my cupboard. There was also a buttery note. 

Taste:  Bitter sweet caramel, charred wood smoke (not overpowering, I found it more subtle than what I was expecting), sweet espresso coffee, cream crackers, there’s a floral note like orange blossoms or manuka blossoms, and lastly some bitter notes from green plants but I couldn't identify specifically what.  

Finish:  I found it to leave a very dry mouth feel, and very short in terms of the other flavours doesn't linger, just ends abruptly, only leaving the bitter sweetness behind. For me I would have liked the other flavours to linger for a lot longer as they were truly delicious
Dave: The nose opens up with a sweet sticky BBQ sauce, and then adds the roasted meats, like the smell of a hog roast. The corn meal shows it's hand with some roasted rustic corn notes, and there are some salty notes to go along with the buttery sweet Demerara sugar. Spice comes along through roasted chilli peppers, that sweet spiciness that sometimes takes your breath away when concentrated. Leave it a little while in the glass and it evolves with rubber notes, tarmac and hot bitumen, which while odd sounding in a tasting note, it is strangely alluring.

This starts sweet on the palate then slowly builds up to a spicy crescendo before settling back to sweet burnt toffee, rich dark marmalade, the thick-cut type my Dad would make using Demerara sugar, and some meaty BBQ flavours. There's a slight hint of fragrant smoke and a rubber inner tube too.

This has an insanely long finish that I'm sure I woke up tasting the following morning! Chilli heat leads the way, with some mint and smoky BBQ sauce, the rubber notes remain there throughout for me and there's a rich liquorice note too which fades leaving a drying wood smoke smouldering like that of a dying garden bonfire, slightly herbal and charcoal, it's this note that I'm fairly certain I woke up with the following morning.

My overall verdict is I love it! I love the smoky corn notes in this, however just as a peaty Islay whisky, this is not something you should start your whisky tasting evening with, unless you will be following it with another Brimstone! My favourite of our Balcones Mission so far is still True Blue Cask Strength, but still have three to taste following this.

Now I know Chip will be at Whisky Live London next weekend (22nd & 23rd March) and I'm fairly certain that this will be one of the whiskies being presented. You really must try this, but I wouldn't recommend you start your day with this one unless you want everything you taste afterwards to be dominated by this scrub oak smoked delight! Kat and I will be helping out at Balcones on the Saturday so come across and say hello to us too!

Many thanks to Johanne McInnis (@Whiskylassie) of The Perfect Whisky Match and Emily Harris (@emilymayfox) of Mayfox Communications for samples and photographs

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