Balcones is a small, craft distillery from Waco, Texas that was founded in 2008. In 2012, they won the Whisky Magazine “Icons of Whisky Award” American Craft Distillery of the Year “for extending the art of distilling by creating a smoked whisky in which the spirit gets infused with smoke in a secret process instead of smoking the grains before mashing”. Although they don’t mention the Balcones Brimstone by name on the Whisky Magazine website, it’s obvious that this is the whisky they’re talking about since Brimstone is a Texas scrub oak smoked corn whisky.
Here is what Chip Tate, Head Distiller for Balcones, has to say about their Brimstone Corn Whisky:
Purification through fire – a Texas oak fire, that is. Rather than using Scottish peat smoke, this one-of-a-kind whisky is smoked with sun-baked Texas scrub oak using our own secret process. The result is a whisky full of fresh youthful corn and light fruit notes married with a bold smokiness.
And now for my review…
- Appearance: Deep amber color.
- Aroma: Once you get past the smoky BBQ scents, the sweet stuff really start to come through, i.e. brown sugar, honey, rum soaked raisins. Dig a little deeper and some herbal notes also become apparent. Sage and thyme immediately come to mind.
- Taste: Silky mouthfeel. That first taste is all spicy, smoky Texas BBQ goodness. Very warming from the middle to the tip of your tongue. From mid palate to the end, it’s all mild smoked pepper heat and brown sugar sweetness. Warm, spicy finish with some sharp black pepper notes. Some of those herbal elements (menthol and eucalyptus) come through as well.
- ABV: 53%
When I first opened this bottle of Balcones Brimstone, it took a few minutes to get past the smoky BBQ elements. During that first tasting, I grabbed a bottle of Stubb’s Original BBQ Sauce from my fridge to do a side by side comparison, and their aroma similarities were quite obvious.
A month has passed since that first tasting, and the BBQ aroma has subsided quite a bit, but it’s far from gone. It took me a few tries to really appreciate this whisky, but while watching an episode of Justified a few weeks ago, I had an “Aha!” moment as I slowly finished my dram. The smoky BBQ is still quite prominent when you take that first sip, but if you take your time to savor all of the flavors, the sweet and herbal qualities of this whisky break through and reward you with an exceptionally smooth and unique whisky drinking experience. This whisky is so smooth, that I have yet to add any water since it hides its relatively high alcohol content really well. If you like smoky whisky and want to try something very unique and flavorful, then I suggest that you give Brimstone a try. The fact that I’m already a third of the way through the bottle is a clear indication that I am really enjoying this whisky.
Thank you to Balcones Distillery for this very generous sample!