Balcones – Texas Single Malt Whisky – Batch SM 14.2 | 53% (106 Proof) $69.99 (Hi-Times Wine Cellers)
Color/Appearance: Gosh this stuff looks amazing. Amber and then some. Elegant short bottle, textured black label with with a nice wax seal. No chill-filtration and no colorant so that is nice. Batch and date clearly marked on the back in what looks like pen. Actual hands were needed to get this out the door. You can really feel the passion they have for their whisky at Balcones.
Nose: Marzipan, tangerines, hazelnuts, caramel, raw honey, cereal grains, rising dough, vanilla, sandalwood, poached pears and homemade whipped cream. This smells great. Here you are on a wonderful tour of all the great bourbon and single-malt scents. As soon as this bottle is opened you know you are in for a treat. Every time I pour a dram on this fine liquid I get excited as these wonderful fragrances waft up from the glass.
Palate: Honeyed malt with rich creamy nuttiness, sherried sweetness, figs and dark chocolate. Big, bold, powerful and rich. Firing on all cylinders. There is a real vibrancy to the flavors here. They are urgent and direct. You are out visiting your uncle, who is a little bit of a black sheep in your family. He tells you he has been distilling and aging his own whisky. As you take a sip you see a glimmer in his eye. He winks at you as the amazing liquid destroys your sense of what is possible in this life.
Finish: Long and lip smacking. The finish reveals some sherry and oak. Drying out now but urgently requesting another sip. Candied nuts served from a street vendor in a paper cone while the gentle late summer evening chill is bested by a sip of this honeyed liquid. Gentle chest warming heat but very little burn. Lingering thoughts of this stuff can haunt your memories for days.
Overall: Serious American craft whisky that can hang with much older single malts. This is no age statement and is possibly very very young but there is no way you could know that as you drink it. Being at nearly cask strength really enhances this malt. Its raw boldness echoes bourbon but its underlying flavors lean more towards a Speyside malt. This is a good place to be. Chip Tate, head distiller at Balcones, is not just making amazing whisky right now, he has so many good things in the works that we will all be luckily drinking wonderful creations of his for a long time. Cheers to that. I love malts that exhibit creamy nuttiness and this has it in spades. There is so much hype around Balcones, and this expression in particular, but it is so nice when the liquid in the bottle exceeds even your hyped-up ideal of what to expect. Fact: if you get a bottle of this you will not be disappointed. I find myself already trying to hold back my excitement to make the bottle last longer. Given Chip’s level of extreme whisky geekery and unbridled passion for tinkering we can expect this stuff to just get better and better. If he can make this amazing of a whisky with so few years in barrel, imagine what he could do with a twelve year old, the ceiling may have to be raised.