Tasting Balcones Texas Single Malt Whiskey

Categories: Drink This

Balcones Single Malt At Home.jpg
Yesterday we pointed out the mention of Balcones Texas Single Malt Whiskey in The New York Times as part of a larger discussion about malt whiskeys and their recent domestic rise. Today I got a bottle of the stuff. It tastes like this...

When it comes to whiskey, I am a man seduced by dark and dreary things. I love peat, wet seaweed smells and enough smoke to make my living room stink like a campfire had recently smoldered inside it. Talisker, Lagavulin and Laphroaigare the whiskeys that do it for me.

See also:
- Texans Make Whiskey Better Than the Scots Do

I'm not telling you any of this because I think you'll give a damn. Rather I offer my personal preferences as a frame of reference for my thoughts on Balcones Texas Single Malt Whiskey, the warm glass of amber liquid I'm sipping as I type up this very post. I've been sipping for some time, and I'm not sure I've gotten anywhere yet. So far I'm only able to determine that this special release is unlike any other whiskey I've tasted.

Balcones Single Malt Glass.jpg
It says single malt on the label, so I was expecting something that tasted and smelled like scotch, but it's not that at all. When I first nosed the glass, I thought I was nostril deep in a glass of bourbon, which probably comes from the fact that the whiskey is aged in bourbon barrels among other wood. This isn't a corn whiskey, though, and a small measure of water toned down the alcohol and brought forward the malty grain characteristics I was looking for in the first place.

Balcones single malt starts with a very sweet, grainy taste. It's something you could only wish your prepackaged breakfast cereal might taste like. Honey and vanilla are prevalent, and I suddenly find myself craving something warm and buttery like a stack of buckwheat pancakes. The pear is there, just like the label promised, and it's not green or herbaceous but a sweet, caramel flavor you might associate with a pear pie if people made such things on a more regular basis. (Why don't they?)

The finish is darker -- like raisins or dried figs -- and oh, there's the burn I'd associate with a 52 percent ABV whiskey. It doesn't present itself till the finish.

So do I like it? Yes and no. I'll make good use of the bottle, but I won't be sipping this whiskey on a regular basis for the pure enjoyment of it. I will pour a glass to share with every whiskey enthusiast who comes through my door, though. While the sweetness is a little much for my taste, I can honestly say that this is the most interesting whiskey to grace my palate in a really long time. A hybrid that's a little bit punk rock and a whole lot of Texas, Balcones Single Malt is a conversation piece for sure.

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I think your experience with Scotch is very limited, Scott, if you only associate the peaty varieties with the word 'Scotch.'  There are many fine and famous single malt Scotches that are not peated at all, but they are made exclusively from malted barley and often aged in used bourbon barrels, sherry barrels, etc.  Aberlour, Balvenie and others are closer in style to the Balcones Single Malt, and Balcones is a very good example of that same craft.  It's a wonderful whisky, and anybody who likes malt whisky in general or single malt scotches in particular should give it a try.

And no, it is nothing like a bourbon.


What a way to start the day Scott!!!


Sure sounds much more like a bourbon than anything resembling a Scotch. Seems worthy of checking out if it gets priced right--I'd give it a shot for $30, but much above that and you're passing up some great, known options on an experiment.

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