Balcones "1" Texas Single Malt
American Single Malts are a fascination of mine. Part of this comes from my love of Single Malt Scotch, but some part of it is based in craft distilling. As I mention constantly to people, craft whiskey is fun. The distillers like risks and taking chances. They have basically created a new category of whiskey, American Single Malts. What I have been finding is that distillers are actually producing good single malt whiskey. Yes, you have to find some of it, which is definitely not nearly as available as bourbon or rye. You also have to drink American Single Malts knowing that it is not Scotch, and being ok with that. There is single malt Irish whiskey, but most people just think of that as Irish whiskey and of course do not compare it to Scotch.
American Single Malt is a young category, and the whiskey is typically young, as well. The oldest common offering I have seen was a whiskey aged 6 years, though 2 - 4 years is much more typical. This all brings us to the Balcones "1". This Texas Single Malt was aged just over 2 years. Balcones states that the Texas heat and temperature changes cause the whiskey to mature faster, with the changes in temperature causing the wood to breathe more. Besides the obvious focus on the distillate, they use "fine grain oak, extended dry seasoning, heavy toasting, and multiple species of oak". This combination of variables can lead to a more complex whiskey than one just aged in new American oak barrels.
If you have been following our reviews, you may have noticed that I have reviewed Balcones before, specifically the Texas Rye. I really liked the rye, so I had high hopes for the Single Malt. In addition, the Single Malt has also garnered a few gold medals, much like the rest of the Balcones line. So, is the Texas Single Malt worthy of the accolades?
2+ yrs (26 months specifically)
Distilled and Bottled by Balcones Distilling, Waco, Texas
100% Malted Barley
Bottled at 53% ABV (106 proof)
Non-chill filtered and natural color
Toasted oak and honey start the show. Pears fight for attention along with some coffee, and just a touch of chocolate. After some time in the glass, a soft bready malt reveals itself.
Rich and thick on entry, it gets a little warm. The coffee, chocolate, and honey come forward immediately. Way in the background, some fruit can be found, but instead of pear it leans more towards a stone fruit.
Lingering burnt sugar, coffee, and milk chocolate lead this delightful finish. A bit of oak and toasty malt really complete the picture. The bold flavors in the finish really make your mouth water.
Recommendation: Must try!
I have the same basic recommendation as I did for the Rye, this would be a "Buy", but it is just so much different than most single malts. When looking at the American Single Malt, you really need to think of it as something related to Scotch, but definitely not Scotch. There are some similarities and there are some differences. Then you get to Balcones, and it is very different, but it all works. It is bold and brash like a young whiskey normally is, but there is a lot of complexity. You also really don't get those overly malty, unfinished notes you get with most young single malts. I am hopeful that they push the single malt out to 4 or 6 years; they could have a truly amazing whiskey at that point.