Thanks to /u/ScotchChick for pouring me a sample of this.
Balcones Brimstone differs from other whiskies? Why? Well instead of smoking the grain, which in this case is corn, they smoked the whisky. Which I personally haven’t had before.
However, if this was any other whiskey, I’d probably end the review right there, or opine the amazing aspects of innovation and how the American system allowing for that is great. Were it not for the drama surrounding Balcones.
You see this was made before Chip Tate was… asked to leave. Yes, let’s say asked to leave. Let’s say that the small distillery that was founded by Chip Tate in Waco, Texas eventually severed their connection with their founder, buying out his 27% remaining share in 2014.
From what I’ve heard there was reprehensible behaviour, however that’s rumours and I don’t personally know how much is true. What I do know is that this particular sample of Balcones Brimstone was made while he was still there, and still working on it. I also have heard people think it tasted better, or at very least different, during his time there.
So let’s see how it tasted when the founder was about, shall we?
Price: N/A at the LCBO
Colour: 2.5YR 4/10
Nose: Cranberry, BBQ smoke, banana bread, wax, fruit candy
Oak and red fruits initially, and then that BBQ smoke I’ve come to expect from Texas. Great news! It doesn’t come with the other things from Texas! Like attempting to remove evolution from textbooks or starting a trend that limits people’s ability to punish doctors!
More funk comes out with time, and water brings out a waxiness and a fruit candy note. Not as much smoke as I was expecting.
Taste: Mesquite, brine, caramel, nectarine, peanut, popcorn
Nice different smoke on the taste. I love mesquite for that dry aspect it brings. Or that different vegetal note. Lovely brine/caramel going on, and this lovely peanut aspect and some light popcorn comes with water.
Finish: Mesquite, bay leaf, anise, peanut, brine, dry apple Dry herbal notes and smoke. Some spice, lots and lots of flavours. I’m impressed that the caramel wasn’t the main thing. More so it’s the mesquite and the peanut, as well as a nice apply note.
Side note: I had a smoked apple cider that’s local to me, and it works really well. This follows that idea. Or made that idea. I don’t know who did it first. Probably the Ancient Greeks.
Conclusion: Unique, though a bit less smoke than expected. I went into this thinking it was going to be a Texas Islay different peat bomb. Instead, it’s a complete flip on corn whisky. Some of that wonderful oak and nutty notes. Some good funk. Great Mesquite.
I can’t speak for what happened at Brimstones or how this may (or may not have) changed. I’ll say that the old stuff is certainly interesting. And ignoring the issues they’ve had with vision and difference of opinion on how to move forward, I hope it’s still this good. This is a must try, and I’ll go so far to say a must buy as well.
Bourbon review #237, Texas review #5, Whiskey Network review #1551