Did you know that people make whiskey in Texas? Most people have found this out at some point, due to the popularity of Balcones and Garrison Brothers. Of course, the next question is, do they make good whiskey in Texas? Obviously, that is what we are here to find out.
In 2008, Balcones started like many other craft distilleries, as a dream and some passion. The big difference was they had an old welding shop under a bridge in Waco to convert into a distillery. They began distilling in 2009, but kept in mind the heat and temperature swings of Texas. Taking a cue from barbecue, they tailored their distillation to be "slow and low", giving them plenty of control over the flavor profile of the new make.
They soon realized that more space was needed, so in 2011 they purchased the Texas Fireproof Storage Co. building in downtown Waco, and all of their whiskey has matured on that site since then. After 3 years, they finally started transforming the site into their new distillery and opened to the public at the end of 2016.
All of this sounds fine and dandy, but did they make a good Rye? Were they able to tame the Texas heat? Why do they spell everything as "Whisky"? On this last point, I have no idea, but we can leave that alone.
Age: At least 15 months
Bottled at 100 proof
First you're greeted by some toasted oak. Lightly sweet cherries and a little coffee and chocolate provide a solid foundation. Buttery toffee sits in the background.
Very oily on entry, almost thick enough to chew. Chocolate and coffee hard candies dominate. Smoky, malty, and just a touch of peanuts underneath. It does get a little warm, but nothing overpowering.
For such a young whiskey, this finish lingers for a while. The coffee hard candies and cigar smoke play so well together with chocolate providing a wonderful backdrop. Warmth and malty fullness throughout the finish. Peanuts and cherries try to come through but quickly dissipate.
There is one reason this is not a complete "Buy" recommendation, it is very different than most Rye on the market. Honestly, there is such limited typical rye character, you start to wonder if it is something completely different. If you are expecting a normal rye with lots of pepper and baking spices, you will be disappointed. However, this is just very good whiskey, especially considering how young it is. There is a ton of flavor, it's bold and doesn't taste like young craft whiskey. This finish is a real winner here, while the nose just doesn't tell you how good it will be. Also, craft whiskey at $40 is typically just ok, but this is a great value. This is why craft whiskey is so much fun, they take risks, do something interesting, and suddenly you have a real winner. Yes, I am completely surprised at how much I enjoyed this. Yes, I will be buying more.