DSR – TX – 004: Balcones Baby Blue Corn Whisky
Company/Distillery: Balcones Distilling
Location: Waco, Texas
Mash Bill: 100% Roasted Blue Corn
Age Statement: Aged at least 12 months in oak
Proof/ABV: 92 Proof/46% ABV
Color & Viscosity: In the bottle, this Baby Blue Corn whisky presents a dusky tawny hue. Observing this whisky from the glass, an auburn russet tint is perceived. Tilting the glass to the side produces a thin, sharp viscous line that slowly matriculates into big round tear drops that appear oily and sticky. They are in no hurry to fall into the well of the tasting vessel.
Purchase Price: $39.95 from the NC ABC Store; 750 ml
Bottle Label Information:
“Balcones Baby Blue”
“Pot Distilled Corn Whisky”
“Made From Roasted Blue Corn”
“The Original Texas Whisky”
“Batch: BB20-2 | Date: 6.19.20”
“A True Texas Original”
“The first Texas whisky on the market since Prohibition, Baby Blue is crafted from roasted Texas blue corn. This rich and oily maze adds new sophistication to the corn whisky tradition, while keeping the freshness and verve of classic American distilling. Intentionally youthful, Baby Blue captures the essence of this prized corn with a round nuttiness, roasted overtones, and refined complexity. The mouth feel is viscous with a soft finish.”
“Certified Texas Whisky”
“Jared Himstedt, Head Distiller”
“Distilled and Bottled by Balcones Distilling, Waco, Texas”
“Aged at least 12 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 where she would become a Dean at Baylor University. It was after the move that Mr. Tate became 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 the world of being 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 became 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. Everything started 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 of 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”.
Tasting Date/Vessel: January 14, 2023 – Neat in Glencairn Glass; then with a dash of distilled water.
Christian: Taking a quick nose of the bottle brings forward an earthy aroma that resembles fresh tobacco leaves, roasted corn, and just a hint of smokiness. In my Glencairn glass, the earthy notes remain strong and dominant. Hay and peanuts quickly come to mind. As I allow the glass to sit and then open up, the nose becomes much sweeter. Honeysuckle blossoms, fresh cornbread with honey, and vanilla cream are all present. Finally, a healthy dose of buttered fire roasted corn is detected. Adding a drop of water really allows the smokiness of the roasted corn to build leaving behind much of the sweeter notes.
Mike: In the bottle, I detect gumball machine bubble gum followed by a quick transition to dry cigarette tobacco aromas. A second pass reveals soft oatmeal and maple syrup flavors.
Nosing this Balcones whisky from the glass, it exhibits a sweet, yet dry bouquet initially. A swirl of the glass unleashes a gentle wave of honeysuckle floral sweetness and brown sugar oatmeal. As the whisky begins to settle, a pleasant waft of sweet buttercream icing and light cured tobacco circulates.
Christian: The mouthfeel of this Baby Blue whisky is nicely viscous, almost creamy, with a tinge of oiliness coating the tongue and lips. This pour is very sweet on the tip of the tongue. Notes of simple syrup, vanilla bean, and butterscotch lead off, then the more earthy flavors take hold – fire roasted corn, husk, and green clay are present. The flavor profile becomes similar to scotch as I continue to sip. This note is reminiscent of a quality we detected in the Balcones Bourbon. The addition of water tames the creamy mouthfeel while really allowing gentle sweetness from caramel corn, vanilla, and fresh cinnamon to stand tall.
Mike: My first sip of this corn whisky starts sweet then turns slightly bitter. The bitterness is consistent with a red food color dyed cake icing with a slight chalkiness of the pink liquid amoxicillin (a flavor I actually love). A shift to a “Scotch-like” flavor is identified on the second sip but not as, what I like to call “campy”, as compared to others.
Overall this has a dry mouthfeel but coats the palate well. There is a noticeable young heat that is scratchy in the lower throat. The earthy qualities really become pronounced as you continue sipping this whisky.
Christian: Balcones Baby Blue has a surprisingly short to medium finish for such a young whisky. There are definitely hints that show the whisky’s age. The finish is dry and bitter, leading into wisps of caramel corn, nuts, mint, and green clay. There is a baking spice component here that comes off as almost raw and grainy – perhaps best defined as unrefined. Water allows this to become a true sippin whiskey. Warm baking spices are present but play curiously with a touch of spearmint.
Mike: Overall this whisky has a short finish. I get a soft bitterness followed by a light sweetness that tends to linger on the palate. There is a slight resurgence of heat that builds but fades quickly.
Christian: As I sit here and sip Balcones Baby Blue, I just keep coming back to the spring notes of honeysuckle blossoms and vanilla cream. A light delicate pour that doesn’t overpower the drinker with flavors, but is just subtle enough to grab your attention. This is not an every day drinker for me but I do find this whisky to be a good change of pace when I just want something different. Would love to try this one in its cask strength offering. Cheers!
Rating: 2.375 Rickhouses
Mike: This is definitely drinkable; fairly muted in flavor overall. The nose is very inviting but drinks like your average corn whisky. This isn’t a whisky I would seek out regularly, but it is respectable enough to enjoy if someone gifted me a bottle or an acquaintance offered me a pour.
Rating: 2.125 Rickhouses
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