You’ll probably know the name of That Boutique-y Whisky Company for their anarchic graphic novel labels, huge range of often geeky, often delicious indie bottlings - but do you know these Texan whisky geeks?
Balcones, the first distillery in Texas since prohibition, don't just make bourbon, they make freakishly good American single malt whisky, rye and some oddities, like the experimental ‘Brimstone’, a smoky corn whisky made by smoking the liquid itself rather than the grain. So what happens when their weirder experiments break free from their fabulously titled ‘Texas Fireproof Storage Building’ - in the form of three limited That Boutique-y Whisky Company releases?
So, just what’s on offer? There’s three limited edition bottles with a fourth one coming at some point, all are single malts.
Batch 1 (2 years old)
Starts in a virgin oak first-fill cask, finished in a Balcones Brimstone Cask, “imparting notes of smoky bacon, hickory, mesquite and campfires into the final dram.” It’s so young, it can’t technically be called whisky yet here in the UK.
For me this was a brutal smash and grab of your senses. At first it was in your face - HULK. HULK LIKE WHISKY. SMASH. Wait, some sweetness cometh through the dark, in such a pleasant way, then spice, then burn. Oooh burn - but the taste of sweet burnt things. All of this is oddly pleasant, my mouth numbing but it feels fine. Long, long finish brings it all together. This is actually deeply pleasant. Aftertaste aptly of Dr Pepper. Colour of a much older dram.
Batch 2 (3 years old)
Starts in a French oak cask, matured in a Tequila cask for 24 months, “giving it a bold vegetal, yet dried fruit sweetness.”
I’m a huge tequila fan and this was right up my street - a perfect taste hybrid. A refined extra añejo tequila on the nose with real single malt character on the palate balanced by the agave’s grassy, vegetal notes. The more I went back to it the more it’s the good bits of a lovely old tequila and a fine whisky, but neither overpowering the other. Lovely.
Batch 3 (2 years old)
Starts in American oak, finished in an Oloroso sherry cask, “ensuring it takes on a ton of plum fruit notes with spicy treacle characteristics.”
This one has massive sherry impact. It tastes older than it’s youthful age, aided by the deep hue. It’s sweet as hell but not saccharine, it’s just so lush. The world's best gummy bears at first but then so much unctuous, oily nuttiness, tannic at the end but in an expected way - if that makes sense.
Who should drink these? Anyone who:
- is open minded about what whisky is and could be.
- is interested in what extremes of temperature do to the aging process.
- likes well made tasty experimental things.
I said Balcones were geeks earlier and I’d be doing them a disservice if I don’t quickly mention just how lovingly respectful of scotch Head Distiller Jared Himstedt and his crew are. Their stills are custom made by Speyside’s most famous family the Forsyths (just like all the most famous whiskies in Scotland), the grain they use is ‘Golden Promise’ - rarely used nowadays due to its lower yield, but because of its flavour and history (most whisky of the 60s to 80s used it), then Balcones use it too. Oh, and they have Speyburn Distillery’s old mash tun … just for extra authenticity. There are easier ways to make whisky - these folks really give a darn about doing it right.
All three bottlings are available from Master of Malt at the time of going to press, £69.95 (per 50cl bottle).