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. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
Texas, the Lone Star State, often brings thoughts of BBQ and music to mind, but more and more the distilleries in Texas are bringing whiskey to everyone’s mind, too. Tx, Balcones, and Garrison Brothers are just a few of the distilleries that have come up in Texas, and all of them have a following. When working as a bartender, the request for something from Texas was not uncommon even though I worked in the Pacific Northwest. Before this review my only experience with Balcones was their Brimstone, which I am not a fan of. But right now I’m looking at Balcones Texas Pot Still Bourbon, a straight bourbon whiskey distilled by Balcones in Waco, Texas. I won’t bury the lead: I really enjoyed this.
Balcones claims themselves as “The Original Texas Whisky.” Though founded in 2008, they were two years behind Garrison Brothers, who got started in 2006. Their effort finding quality ingredients is evident in the Pot Still Bourbon. You can find everything from blue corn to Texas malted barley starring in their whiskies. They have pot stills from Forsyths of Scotland, so they can produce their whisky in the same method as Scotch whisky. Balcones’ aging process goes faster than places like Scotland due to the extreme highs and lows experienced throughout the year.
This particular bottling is their Texas Pot Still Bourbon batch TPSB21-3 from 8-16-2021. It uses a mash bill of blue corn, Texas wheat, Texas rye, and malted barley. Balcones does mention they have a malted barley from Texas currently on their website, so this likely uses that now as well, but I couldn’t find confirmation. While they don’t make numbers readily available, you can know the mash bill is at least 51% blue corn due to the bourbon designation. It’s aged for a minimum of two years in new charred oak barrels, then bottled at 46% ABV without chill filtering or caramel coloring.
Pot stills can have a tendency to create a more viscous and rich distillate in comparison to the column still often used in bourbon. Vinepair gives a quick breakdown here. The continuous distillation of the column can produce a higher proof in the end product, making it more “pure,” for a lack of a better word. The flip side of that purity, however, is it can strip some of what provides flavor from the distillate. Many bourbons have a lot of the same flavor characteristics because they’re distilled and aged in a very similar way. By using a pot still, Balcones can achieve a more rich and flavorful product right off the still, and then enhance that further while barrel aging to meet bourbon requirements. If you can ever get new make from a column still and pot still to compare, it’s a very fun look at how the stills impact flavor.
Balcones has made a great product with their pot still bourbon. I hope to see some older age statements on this in the future, even if the distillate is already a full bodied sipper at the minimum two year statement. This bottle has really given me the understanding of why people ask about Balcones, and I will certainly be looking to try some of their other offerings.
Tasting Notes: Balcones Texas Pot Still Bourbon
Vital Stats: This is batch TPSB21-3 from 8-16-2021. Aged for a minimum of 24 months. Mash bill of blue corn, Texas Rye, Texas wheat, and malted barley. Between $30 and $45 for a bottle depending on your location.
Appearance: Rich amber color with a hint of red. Legs are small and slow to form on the glass.
Nose: This has a bit of a brighter nose than I expect from the smell of corn. Caramel, paint thinner, and a little hint of green apple compliment the corn.
Palate: A very thick liquid that you can practically chew on. It reminded me of a caramel apple up front with that bright crispness complemented by the sweet caramel toffee flavors. That gives way to more traditional bourbon flavors of caramel, vanilla, and oak, then finishes with just a little tannin and black pepper. Water smooths out the tannin on the finish and brings forward the rich caramel complemented with the flavor of roasted corn.
This is a rich bourbon with a bit of complexity that makes for a great sipper. While this certainly won’t replace my 5 star favorites, it is a bottle I would be happy to give or get as a gift. I can’t think of another bourbon I would prefer at the price point either, which makes it an approachable choice to pick up any time.