Whiskey Review: Balcones High Plains Texas Single Malt - The Whiskey Wash

Whiskey Review: Balcones High Plains Texas Single Malt

Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Balcones. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review.

When one thinks single malt, one does not usually think…Texas. Not only in terms of history, but also in climate. Barley grows best in cool ground; temperatures should hover around freezing.  Freezing isn’t what one associates with Texas. That said, it’s a big state with big diversity.

And yet, Balcones Distilling, which heartily owns its Texas pride, has given single malt making a go, having seen some success with its flagship single malt expression. Balcones, known in these here parts for its inventiveness and quality product, recently came out with the Balcones High Plains Texas Single Malt, a Texas single malt in conjunction with Blacklands Malt, news we reported on back in June.

Seven years ago, Blacklands Malt partnered with Texas A&M University on what it might take to brew and distill grains grown in Texas. In 2016, Blacklands provided the first-ever Texas-grown harvest suitable for malting barley, and Balcones purchased some to make a mash with it.

Balcones High Plains Texas Single Malt is malted in Texas as well as “cooked, fermented, distilled, matured, all in Texas,” said Jared Himstedt, head distiller at Balcones in a July interview with local TV station KBTX. Balcones worked to make their single malt not only local, but worth your time and money. It’s won a ton of awards, too.

Having enjoyed previous tastings of Balcones myself (such as their Texas Rye), I was for sure ready to get down to tasting.

Balcones High Plains Texas Single Malt

Balcones High Plains Texas Single Malt (image via Balcones)

Tasting Notes: Balcones High Plains Texas Single Malt

Vital Stats: 100 percent malted barley, matured in oak casks, 104.5 proof (52.7 percent ABV), about $80 for 750 ml.

Appearance: Very deep orange in color, and it’s not just because I tasted this around Halloween. There’s definitely orange in this. Dark honey, mixed with rust.

Nose: A pleasant, warm wintry scent to this. Comforting. Like sitting around a fire in winter. Not that it’s smoky but this just smells cozy. Also amarena cherries before being dunked in a drink. Tomatoes. Lightly caramelized sugar. European butter, salted.

Palate: Slight frowny face here. The engaging nose on this doesn’t follow through on the palate, in my opinion. I wanted this to have maybe something like the pleasantly unctuous mouthfeel of the Barrell American Vatted Malt I recently sampled. Or some depth to it. Granted, that’s a blend, so not a fair comparison.

But this tastes unfinished somehow, like it matured long enough for the nose to develop but not the taste. It definitely rings my high-alcohol-taste bell. It’s very assertive. It lets itself be known. I respect what is has to say, but it’s noise. I wish it would turn down its volume. It’s a loud talker. Does that make this very Texas?

The Takeaway


After drinking this, I want to go to something more developed, more complex. I applaud and admire Balcones' efforts here, and I want them to keep up the good work, but this one was a little flat to me.

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