BALCONES TEXAS BLUE CORN BOURBON
Limited Edition Batch BCB19-1 (June 25 2019)
MASH BILL – 100% blue corn
PROOF – 130
AGE – 2 years 3 months
DISTILLERY – Balcones
PRICE – $74
BUY AGAIN? – When this bottle runs out, yes I will
Balcones has been gathering awards and garnering attention for its bold, 100% in-house made craft whiskies. It took me awhile to pick up one of their offerings, given they are among the many craft distilleries bottling young whiskies. But I was struck by how dark their whiskies seemed to be despite their youth, and the repeated reports that they had a remarkable power behind them.
So when I finally bit I went for the 2019 annual cask strength release of their Texas Blue Corn Bourbon, a mighty variation of their standard 100-proof True Blue release. I was intrigued by the 100% blue corn mash bill, and a cask strength bottling seemed an appropriate place to start for a distillery noted for its full-throttle whiskies. I’d also recently enjoyed the Home Base Spirits Red Flint Corn Whiskey, another cask strength craft offering. I’d found the intensity of that 100% red flint corn mash bill exciting at cask strength, very unique and bracing. The prospect of another high octane corn whisky was enticing.
Here first are some notes in brief, tasted about three weeks after uncorking and three pours into the bottle, in a traditional Glencairn.
COLOR – cherry syrup red and dark orange
NOSE – brown sugar, molasses, dark raw honey, grilled corn, baked cherry pie, lemon zest
TASTE – woah! Hold on tight! Grilled corn, the brown sugar, caramel with grilled jalapeño in it, an almost distracting fiery burn up front that eases in the middle and returns with a burst in the end…
FINISH – dark grilled corn, brown sugar and caramel, as the fire gradually dies down to smoldering embers…
OVERALL – a bonfire with grilled sweet corn on it, glazed in a jalapeño caramel and with fruit on the side
Even before I’d nosed it, this bourbon was already making its impression. The color is deep, rich and vibrant in the bottle and the glass. Upon pouring it, the aromas immediately reached out and then subsided, like a momentary burst of flames. Nosing it, I was struck by the intensity and clarity of the brown sugar notes. Then on first sip it was like a fire racing along a stream of spilled bourbon, across my tongue and down my throat. Though spectacular, this was actually a bit distracting from the flavors. It took me some time to acclimate, and then I began to pull the flavors out from behind the wall of flames. The taste was not as impressive as the nose. The finish then echoed the experience of the taste—more spectacle than substance.
I must say, though, that it’s not at all a bad spectacle. I actually quite enjoy it. I can’t say I’ll be reaching for it nearly as often or with the same enthusiasm as its Kentucky bonfire colleague, Booker’s. But it has a quite literally striking personality, with an incredible nose, and flavors that, once they do step through the flames of the 130 proof, are lip-smacking good, like one would expect from a Texas BBQ.
I tried it with seven drops of water, which I let sit to mingle for about ten minutes. Now the nose had a stronger caramel note amongst the brown sugars and grilled corn cobs, with some of the dark cherry as well and a bit of fresh oak bark. On the taste, the water took the bite off the fire and allowed the caramel, corn, cherry, and now some grapefruit as well, to come through more immediately and clearly. Though still dark and intense, now it was almost refreshing. The finish smoldered more gently and retained the cherry and new grapefruit note, allowing the caramelized brown sugars to melt away slowly and at length…
I’d call this a true success. I’ll certainly always drink it with water added, to temper the heat and release those wonderful sweet fruit flavors alongside the grill. The citrus aspects make a lovely compliment to the savory jalapeño, the corn, and the dark brown sugars.
Of course, knowing it’s from Texas, certain images are bound to come to mind by suggestion. But it’s incredible how clearly the whisky does conjure memories of grilled corn on the cob on hot sunny afternoons at campgrounds or in neighborhood parks. Family and childhood friends running around the grass and splashing into a nearby river. As with the Home Base Red Flint Corn Whiskey, the 100% corn mash bill is so specific and yet releases other notes to add complexity. It’s no surprise it also releases vivid memories.
Go get a bottle of this stuff. It’s one to contend with, and enjoy.