Review #126: Balcones Healthy Spirits Bottle

It’s exciting to try local products when you travel. It’s one of life’s joys! But I was a bit skeptical when I first encountered Balcones during a business trip. Most of the world finds a way to advertise its local wine and spirits without deprecating the rest of the world, but Texan advertising always seems to view it as a zero sum game – everything is comparative: bigger, better, etc. in Texas.

Back to the first encounter. It was a trip to visit a Texan game developer and my dining companion heard I liked whisky – he urged me to try Balcones, which he extolled as an excellent local whisky. The bartender chimed in – proudly declared that it was not good, it was the best single malt whisky in the world (!) and that it could beat out anything from Scotland or Japan. The dram I tried, Balcones Single Malt, was young, hot, and overpriced ($70 for a two year old single malt). It left a bad impression and even when I tried it again at a San Antonio cocktail convention – I still was not impressed.

So when the local whisky shop (Healthy Spirits in San Francisco) declared that the bottle of the month was Balcones Rye, I raised an eyebrow. I had been genuinely liking their American whisky program until then (you agree to buy whatever bottle they procure but they procure some excellent and rare selections). Without the monthly subscription, I probably would have continued largely ignorant of how much American whisky has been evolving. Upon picking it up, I mentioned my relatively low perception of Balcones this to the gentleman running the counter at Healthy Spirits. He agreed – saying he had likewise been a bit under-impressed but that their rye was actually incredible. My hope rose.

I tried it immediately when I got home and I’m pleased to say that this is a pretty damn good whiskey.

  • Score - 7/10

Tasting Notes

Nose: Intense nose. Spicy granola bar, butterscotch and vanilla. Followed by notes of sweet barbeque glaze, cherries, marshmallows, intense oaky floor in the summer sun.

Palate: Candied red hots, spicy toffee pudding, mars bars with chocolate caramel, really tannic and imposing, like a sweet spicy candy with which its not to be trifled.

Finish: Long, very oaky and chocolatey, hint of lychee sweetness. Tingles due to the high proof.

Quick overview of our scoring system

Additional Information

  • ABV: 64.7% ABV (129.4 proof)
  • Barrel #14045
  • 60 gallon new American oak level.
  • 100% rye, 85% from TX, 15% German rye, blend of Roasted, Crystal and Chocolate.
  • Thanks to Mark Jackson from The Right Spirit for the info about the spirit.

About Balcones Distillery

  • From Waco Texas.
  • Balcones calls itself the original Texas whisky and was started in 2008. I’m sure this is advertising hyperbole. It’s hard to believe that not a single entrepreneurial moonshiner tried distilling whisky in Texas in the preceding century…
  • Started by Chip Tate in 2008, started distilling in 2009.

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