DSR – TX – 002: Balcones Texas Pot Still Bourbon Whisky
Company/Distillery: Balcones Distilling
Location: Waco, Texas
Mash Bill: Roasted Blue Corn, Texas Wheat, Texas Rye, and Malted Barley
Age Statement: Aged at least 24 months in oak
Proof/ABV: 92 Proof/46% ABV
Color & Viscosity: This offering from Balcones presents as dark russet in color. There is a medium viscosity with a thin viscous line. The legs are slow to form and there is pinky finger width separation between them as they gingerly glide down to the belly of the tasting vessel.
Purchase Price: $29.99 from the NC ABC Store December 2020; 750 ml
Bottle Label Information:
“Balcones Texas Pot Still Bourbon”
“Straight Bourbon Whisky”
“The Original Texas Whisky”
“Batch: TPSB20-3 | Date: 5.13.20”
“Texas Pot Still Bourbon”
“Big flavors have always been the cornerstone of our prized Texas whiskies, and Texas Pot Still Straight Bourbon is no exception. Made grain-to-glass using traditional pot distillation ensures a rich and viscous spirit that stands up to aging in new charred oak without losing its essence. Each dram is full of character and body, married with an aromatic entry and soft finish, for approachable yet memorable bourbon experience.”
“Certified Texas Whiskey”
“Jared Himstedt, Head Distiller”
“Distilled and Bottled by Balcones Distilling, Waco, Texas”
“Aged at least 24 months in oak”
“Never chill filtered or colored”
Balcones Distilling, of Waco, Texas, was founded by Chris Tate in 2008. Opening a distillery was not always in Mr. Tate’s plans. Early on, Mr. Tate had considered a career in the Ministry. The Lynchburg, Virginia native would receive a degree in Philosophy from The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. From there, he would continue on into higher education by studying Theology at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. After school, Mr. Tate would work in information technology (IT) related industries.
Mr. Tate and his wife would eventually move to Waco, Texas were she would become a Dean at Baylor University. It was after the move that Mr. Tate become deeply interested in the art of brewing beer at home. It’s this interest that led him to decide to shed his former life in the corporate world and tackle life as a craft distiller in Texas.
Mr. Tate went all in with Balcones Distillery. He built his own stills and barrels, as well as procured fresh, local ingredients for his craft spirits. He got to experience extremely rapid growth at his distillery before realizing that he would require a liquid infusion from a third party investor. It was at this point in the distillery’s history that things would become quite turbulent. An investor by the name of Gregory Allen agreed to invest roughly $8 million in Balcones Distillery, in exchange for 58% ownership in the distillery. These funds would allow the distillery to expand to a larger facility, pay off debt, and increase working capital. All of these things were badly needed by Mr. Tate and Balcones Distillery. Things would start out strong but the relationship would soon turn sour in 2014, ultimately leading to the departure of Chris Tate.
In 2013, Balcones Distillery welcomed a new President and COO by the name of Keith Bellinger. Mr. Bellinger joined the team, bringing with him 30 years of experience in the alcoholic beverage industry. In 2014, Balcones would begin to renovate and build their new distillery in the 1923 Texas Fireproof Storage Building which they had purchased in 2011. The newly renovated building allowed Balcones Distillery to expand to 65,000 total square feet. New copper stills were built with the help from companies from Scotland. Finally, in 2016, the new facility would open to the public. The expansion would allow Balcones Distillery to produce roughly 350,000 liters of spirits per a year – a significant increase compared to years past.
Balcones Distillery’s current line of products includes Baby Blue, Lineage, Texas Single Malt, Texas Pot Still Bourbon Whisky, and Texas Rye. The company also releases several annual and special recipe spirits every year. For more information about Balcones Distillery’s special releases, visit their website.
Information for the history of Balcones was sourced from 2014 NY Times article entitled “How Dreams and Money Didn’t Mix at a Texas Distillery”.
Texas Pot Still Straight Bourbon Whisky
Texas Pot Still Straight Bourbon Whisky is distilled using a four-grain mash bill of at least 51% roasted blue corn from New Mexico, Texas wheat, Texas rye, and malted barley. The bourbon is then aged in new oak barrels for at least 24 months in the various climate changes experienced in Waco, Texas. The Texas Pot Still Straight Bourbon is non-chill filtered and has no color added.
Tasting Date/Vessel: January 31, 2021 – Neat in Glencairn Glass; then with a dash of distilled water.
Christian: A quick sniff of this Texas Pot Still Bourbon, while still in the bottle, presents very oak forward with touch of fresh tobacco. In my Glencairn glass, sweet and earthy aromas begin to stand out strong. The sweetness is present in the form of vanilla bean, mixed berries, and raisins. As I continue to swirl the whisky in my glass, the earthy aromas really take over. A floral/grassy note is present, along with oiled leather and a light hint of lemongrass. I also pick up a strong aroma of vinyl or plastic, which tends to be a tad off-putting. The addition of water really brings out a strong smokiness and a hint of sweet maple syrup that I didn’t detect prior. This is accompanied by the persistent plastic/vinyl and leather aroma.
Mike: My first swipe of the nose offers a bright oakiness and an aroma of muted mixed berries. Warmed brown sugar permeates from the bottom of the Glencairn as it transitions to honey roasted peanut butter. A gentle swirl brings forward soft oatmeal tones with a drizzle of light honey. After sipping and coming back to the nose, I gather a pleasant scent of velvety caramels. The addition of water noticeably sweetens the nose. I now notice the smell of buttercream icing and brown sugar along with a delicate honey undertone.
Christian: This Texas Pot Still Bourbon presents with a mouth feel that has a decent tongue coating and oiliness. The flavors are more reminiscent of a scotch than a bourbon. A strong essence of freshly cut cedar wood dominates this pour. The cedar is joined by a hint of smoke, oiled leather, and hay. Altogether, this has a very earth forward flavor profile. Similar to the nose, a very slight plastic/vinyl taste carries over to the mouth, bringing a decent amount of bitterness. The addition of distilled water reduces some of the viscosity in the mouth feel. Honey really moves forward as the dominating flavor. A very light hint of un-ripened apricot, lemongrass, and hay/grass remain present.
Mike: A punch of young heat hits the back of the throat with an immediate rush of charred oak. The mouthfeel is thin and some bitterness lingers on the back of the palate and tends to dominate. The mouth is not as sophisticated as the nose and leaves me feeling slightly disappointed. This whisky struggles to find its individuality as a bourbon and could probably use some additional time in the barrel. The addition of water brings forward the campy canvas flavors and tempers its young ruggedness. Considerably more approachable for my palate but still falls short on overall flavor.
Christian: This Balcones Distillery offering has a short to medium finish that is dry. A slight hug comes up late and deep in the chest but diminishes quickly. Flavors of toasted walnuts or pecans are joined by a smokiness in the finish. A slight hint of chocolate cocoa powder along with berries that develop well after the last sip has been taken. The distilled water allows a touch of honey and peach jam to sneak into the finish. An already tame finish becomes even more delicate.
Mike: The finish is medium to long and offers a lingering warmth from throat to stomach. A dry smokiness develops in the back of the throat and lingers in the mouth. Delayed even further is a Scotch-like, camping tent character that I’m actually beginning to appreciate. The addition of water softens the overall finish and extinguishes any cinder from the finish. The smokiness takes a back seat and allows a melodious corn richness to materialize.
Christian: Balcones Distillery offers a broad array of products that provide different profiles that can meet many different desires of most consumers. My previous experience with Balcones has mainly been with their Baby Blue Corn Whisky – which is young but offers an interesting flavor profile and taste. The Balcones Texas Pot Still Bourbon Whisky we tried in this review misses the mark for me. It does offer a very approachable whisky that isn’t too hot or abrasive – in fact, it’s pretty damn smooth. My issue comes in the flavor profiles. There is that plastic/vinyl aroma and flavor that really stands out to me, and not in a pleasant way. In addition, the earthy flavors of fresh cedar wood, oiled leather, and smoke just are not what I am looking for in bourbon. This whisky screams scotch to me and just doesn’t fit my preferred flavor profile. I urge you to give it a try though, especially if you are a fan of scotch. You might find your next favorite whisky.
Rating: 2.375 Rickhouses
Mike: This is a fair to middling whisky for me. The best way to describe it is that it is in the middle of an identity crisis. It contains very non-traditional bourbon flavors that strive for uniqueness but eventually falls flat. The nose offers complexities that arouse the palate only to disappoint with the mouthfeel and finish. I had high hopes for this Balcones Distillery product, but at the end of the day, I’m left feeling slightly underwhelmed.
Rating: 2.125 Rickhouses