Thursday, 12 September 2013

Balcones Tweet Tasting

Balcones Whisky
I was very fortunate to be invited to join the Balcones Fifth Anniversary Tweet Tasting at the end of August. Although I'd tasted all of these before (and you can find out what I thought of them then by clicking this link), it's always good to join in with a tweet tasting and read what others think as they nose and taste the drams.

Kat and I helped out Balcones at Whisky Live earlier this year, so have had the great fortune to meet Chip as well as revisit all of the drams we'd previously tried. One of the 'secret' drams he brought over to the UK at Whisky Live was his 5th Anniversary Bourbon albeit that the official labels didn't arrive in time (or got held up in customs) and so the bottle had a packing tape label.

We first saw the 'real' 5th anniversary Bourbon at Imbibe Live in June and have been eagerly awaiting it's release.
Both Chip Tate, President and Head Distiller at Balcones and Winston Edwards, Brand Ambassador joined us from the United States and were tweeting in on the action and on hand to answer any questions.

Just for the record, all 100% of Balcones whisky is mashed, fermented and distilled at their distillery. They never resell whisky from other distilleries or source aged whisky barrels for blending under the Balcones label. This is authentic craft whisky. It has not been chill-filtered, coloured or otherwise unnecessarily tampered with to ensure that its full aroma and flavour are preserved.

Balcones #1 Texas Single Malt NAS (52.7% abv)
Texan Single Malt Whisky
Circa £75.00 70cl
This was the first Balcones we would pour at Whisky Live (if requested to run through the range) before we'd introduce the Blue Corn whiskies. This was first released in July 2011 and is a unique style of malt whisky, Texan style! Made from malted Golden Promise barley imported from the UK and made in the traditional way it would have been in Scotland right up through to the distillation process. The difference being the maturation; Balcones careful cask selection and management alongside the Texan climatic conditions.

So What Did I Think?
The nose on this has lovely sweet roasted malt notes, with hints of maple syrup and the smell of a wood shop. After a short while buttery notes start to evolve like butter melting in a frying pan. A drop of water really sweetens this nose and let's the fruit notes out, toffee apples and a little cinnamon 

The rich roasted malt notes come through on the palate, spiced with cloves and cinnamon. The wood shop notes come through as sawdust 

What did the others think?
@abbeywhisky: Nose soft vanilla, honey, chestnut stuffing, toasted malt, sweet orange zest, dried figs & a touch of maple syrup followed by hints of spice, cinnamon & nutmeg.
@ansgarspeller: Dark nutty raisin bread, with some almonds and pistachio. Sugar cane, vanilla, citrus, toast, sweet, pear, apricots, orange
@RLemkin: Sweet mixed fruits, cinnamon, something that reminds me of velvet.. so a wee bit musty?
@HMcnee: Malt, sweet, honey, candied orange peel, mixed spice almost like a rich fruit cake
@StewartCraigon: Mmm, creamy chocolate swirls in a pool of honey and orange jus.
@dvdbloke: Palate - oily, silky, burnt toffee/barley sugar. Certain creaminess, nutmeg spices and a dash of honeyed chilli.

Balcones Baby Blue NAS (46% abv)
Texan Corn Whisky
Circa £55.00 75cl
This was the first Balcones we tatsed and it was Chip’s first whisky released from his new Texan distillery. Baby Blue, was the first whisky to be distilled (legally) in the state since prohibition.

This is a unique corn whisky made from atole, a roasted blue corn meal. Corn whisky isn't new, and common to American whisky making tradition, however Balcones are the only distillery to date to use a blue corn. This has become a favourite of Kat

So What Did I Think?
I've smelt the roasted blue corn as Chip brought over a bag of the stuff to Whisky Live, and as soon as I start nosing this dram was reminded of it. But as this starts to breathe the melted buttery notes start sneaking out with the slightest hint of well caramelised banana. It has a lovely sweet buttery nose.

At 46% abv I really don't think Baby Blue needs water. There's quite a lot of wood spice and some chilli heat on the palate at first, but this settles quickly, leaving an earthiness that I don't remember experiencing previously. It certainly doesn't taste as sweet at the nose suggests, however I think this would be perfect drizzled over vanilla ice cream, freezing the whisky first to thickened before pouring

It finishes with the earthiness and some aniseed, while being quite dry

What did the others think?
@MavDrinksCat: Whoa, momma. Baby blue is super creamy on the nose... 
@thomas_speller: Fat, salted butter, herbal and spicy too on the nose...
@StewartCraigon: Boiled milk from a saucepan on the nose, very malty, Ovaltine.
@TheWhiskyWire: Hot buttery sweet corn topped with autumn berry jam, yumzy! 
@emilymayfox: Palma violet hint with spice and pepper on the palate - bounces around your tongue!
@rodbodtoo: Baby Blue has a really soft, round mouth feel. burnt / creme brulee flavours, lovely.
@KirstyPryde1: Taste the oils on the tongue. Definitely has the chew factor 

Balcones True Blue 100 NAS (50% abv)
Texan Corn Whisky
Circa £68.00 70cl
Out of the Balcones expressions currently available in the UK, True Blue 100 is my personal favourite. If the True Blue Cask Strength was available, I'd pick that, but this is the next best thing!

Introduced in 2012 this is 100 proof roasted blue corn whisky, a sibling of Baby Blue, but with deeper wood notes. it's made from the same select barrels of their blue corn whisky that have always gone in to their True Blue Cask Strength, but diluted down to 100 proof.

Since the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897, '100 proof' has long stood for quality and authenticity. True Blue 100 carries on that tradition. 100% of the whisky in this bottle was born, raised, and bottled at Balcones-from mash to glass.

So What Did I Think?
True Blue is Baby Blue that's grown up, a lot spicier on the nose, with a little sourness too, an almost Balsamic sourness, with richer wood notes, clove oil, tee tree oil, coriander seeds and fennel . After a little while in the glass the sour note mellows, and becomes more tobacco like, drying tobacco leaves, sweetened with vanilla .

On the palate there is a woody char with a shot of licorice, but there's so much more. Wood notes remind me of the old boatyard I used to work at. 

Finishes with woody cloves and a slightly metallic taste

What did the others think?
@rodbodtoo: nose is suave, smooth. Like very expensive aftershave - lots of cedar & clove notes
@dvdbloke: Baby Blue with added OOOMPH. If it were possible to breath carameled treacle toffee I guess this is what it would feel like
@BeersIveKnown: Furniture wax, crème caramel and white pepper
@TheWhiskyWire: A Spinal tap version of Baby Blue with all its gargantuanly glorious blue corn bounty cranked up to 11.
@KirstyPryde1: Warm figs drizzled in honey, spicy, cloves touch of cinnamon, warm washing from the tumble dryer, vanilla
@petedrinks: Ppretty damn tasty - rich alcohol-soaked fruit, chocolate, slight tannic finish

Whisky Discovery #355

Balcones Straight Bourbon (53% abv)
Texan Corn Whisky
Circa £65.00 75cl
As I mentioned earlier I've tasted this a few times and have been dying to get my hands on some. It was one of the highlights of Whisky Live London for a lot of people.

Chip decided that he should be marking the distillery's fifth birthday with the launch of something special and this Straight Bourbon is claimed to be Texas's first single barrel Bourbon release.

US Federal standards state that Bourbon is made from a mashbill that is at least 51% corn. This Balcones Bourbon is 100% Blue Corn

Bourbon has no minimum specified duration for its aging period, and spirit aged for as little as three months can be sold as bourbon. However to be called a 'Straight Bourbon' the spirit must be matured in virgin oak for a minimum of two years

Just 10 bottles from the 53-gallon barrel will be made available in the UK from mid-September with an RRP of £95 through whisky specialist Master of Malt.

So What Did I Think?
This packs a punch on the nose, you need to sneak up on it! It really is quite meaty on the nose, and was getting a burnt bacon note, maple syrup and a sweet wood smoke. Earthy notes start to come through once the initial alcohol burn lifts, spices with cardamom seeds, cloves, licorice and some mown hay notes too.  

The palate opens with rich spiced orange notes followed by a huge hit of chilli pepper heat. Once the burst of chilli pepper fades it thickens in the mouth, coating everywhere with a sweet and sour sauce. Softer spices follow, with some dark fruits, black cherry, blackberry turning earthy towards the end with the earthiness of turmeric right at the very end.

What did the others think?

@simon_m_field: Wow, the aroma is quality, very oaky and reminds me of a famous bourbon I wont mention !
@petedrinks : Dried citrus fruit, almond, molasses and did I mention a lot of alcohol
@KirstyPryde1: Sugar almonds wrapped in soft organza, musty like a vintage dress, warm hay, crème Anglais, star anise
@abbeywhisky: An inviting nose, pulls you in.... orange, touch of smoked wood & spice followed by dried pear, apricot & subtle vanilla
@BeckyPaskin: Bold and creamy with punchy toasted almonds, dried fruit and warm liquid caramel
@ansgarspeller: A full body, with a finish of some nuts, cinnamon, dark chocolate and coffee. has a bit more of a bitter in it then the 1st

Balcones Brimstone NAS (53% abv)
Texan Corn Whisky
Circa £65.00 75cl
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.

So What Did I Think?
When I first tasted it I got it immediately, all the BBQ sauce flavours, but once I picked up rubber on the nose these come straight to the fore for me every time I revisit. This evening was no different and it was like new school plimsolls! A drop of water tames the Brimstone rubber and the sweet and smoky BBQ flavours are back, perhaps that was where i was going wrong? 

This has such an insanely long finish that it's only place in a whisky tasting is the final dram as the smoky flavours will overpower everything else afterwards. If you have a few drams of this late into the evening I can almost gaurantee that I will wake up still living with the finish!

What did the others think?
@KiltedMoose: Nose: Smoking wood, honey-cured bacon, burnt salted popcorn, Dry roasted peanuts, dark chocolate, brown sugar.
@dvdbloke: Imagine pig skin was barbecued for 100 hours, and then its essence was magnified by the power of 7.6, and put in the glass
@glasgowgastro: Getting that smokey aroma, a bit peaty like some malts. 'Smokies' from Abroath (smoked haddock to non-natives)
@lvwhsky: Pretty unique stuff, Big mesquite woody note, sticky barbecue sauce, clove/allspice fragrance & an orange note
@rodbodtoo Black pepper, sezuan pepper, barbequed aubergines. Wow that's a different beast
@thomas_speller: A strange combination of thoroughly baked bacon, burned matches and honey on the palate. Not sure yet...
@abbeywhisky: Lovely spice & BBQ sauce flavours combine. Smoked ham, hint of salt. licking the edge of a really salty but tasty crackling
@KirstyPryde1: Can't get enough of the smoke, I love that there's a little rubber on the palate

And finally....
As per previous Tweet Tastings there was a great deal of tweeting going on and to see what happened search on the  #BalconesWhisky hashtag on twitter for the full story. Although no new Whisky Discoveries to log, another entertaining evening revisiting the Balcones range currently available in the UK

A massive THANK YOU to Steve Rush at @TheWhiskyWire, Chip Tate and Winston Edwards from @BalconesWhisky, Emily Harris @emilymayfox from Mayfox Communications for sending out all of the samples to us and of course the tweet tasters who were:

@TheWhiskyWire @emilymayfox @beckypaskin @WhiskyMavericks @TheWhiskyBoys @LRWhisky @WhiskyDiscovery @Sherry_Ben @petedrinks @whiskyrepublic @abbeywhisky  @ardbaggie @beersiveknown @SquareMeal @rodbodtoo @dvdbloke @simon_m_field @rlemkin @HMcnee @paulnwright @glasgowgastro @KirstyPryde1 @TWLJoe @ansgarspeller @girl_whisky

For more information see: and

No comments: