Editor’s Note: This whisky 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.
It is interesting that cultural identity and geography may use the same words, but do not always line up. I understand that because, when people were naming regions of the country, they used what was relative to what was familiar and important to them. I remember being intrigued as an elementary student by the map of the United States and learning that the Midwest was on the Northeastern side of the map. And if I ever tell anyone that I am from the South, I am often replied with “what part?” and I tell them Florida and the next response is “that’s not the South.”
Despite my home state being literally further south than the region they identify in their head, this is a cultural definition rather than a geographic one. Another state that has a confusing geographic designation is Texas. If you look on that same map that told you about the Midwest you will see that Texas is relatively Southern to the rest of the country, and despite being right in the middle of the map, is quite often culturally associated with the West.
If geography can’t help us with directions, maybe geology can help us out. Running from the border with Mexico to the small city of Waco lies the Balcones Escarpment. This is a very prominent geological feature that creates a hundreds of miles long cliff face that separates the Texas Coastal Plain and the West Texas Hill country. It is also generally agreed that this is where the South ends and the West begins.
Much like the land masses that combined to make such distinction, the region has also combined many cultural characteristics to create its own identity. This is reflected in the accordions prominent in Tejano music, to the whisky that is the subject of our review today. Taking its name from this defining feature, Balcones Distillery has been making a name for itself in the whisky world by doing things their way. The bourbon rules state that the mash must be 51% percent corn; theirs is 100% corn. Not only that, but it’s going to be blue corn.
My friend Savannah gave some interesting insights about the corn and process in a previous review. It may not be a rule, but most of the bourbon we see is the result of continuous distillation using columns. Instead, Balcones uses a pot still for their bourbon, and uses a variety of new charred oak barrels to age it in Texas’ unique climate.
I’m curious to see how this spirit of independence translates to the whisky. Let us taste.
Tasting Notes: Balcones Texas Blue Corn Bourbon
Vital Stats: 127 proof (63.5% ABV). 100% blue corn mash bill. Pot distillation. Aged at least 38 months (straight bourbon). $61 average retail price. This bottle is from batch BCB21-1, bottled on 9-10-21.
Appearance: Clear, but with a dark, rich cherry color. Reminiscent of over-steeped black tea.
Nose: Despite the high ABV, a medium approach is not overpowered with ethanol. The expected corn is prevalent, but there are also distinct green vegetal notes. A close approach reveals caramelized sugar, toffee, and vanilla extract. Now I want some french toast.
Palate: Rich and chewy with a full mouthfeel. Caramel gives way to molasses and then moves onto spearmint as we end up with a dry, tannic finish, almost as if someone spiked your sweet tea on a hot afternoon. Cotton candy then makes itself known as it evaporates from your palate.
This is a very big and bold whisky, but it also has some distinct subtleties. I think you could probably pick this out of a line up with other high proof bourbons. It’s hot, but at no time does it lose its sweet characteristics. This would definitely pair well with BBQ. Texas BBQ, that is. And, if you’re bold enough, try it with your pancakes. But, that’s a whole other cultural debate.
User Review2.46 (13 votes)
Jason Marshall has spent his career as a bartender advocate and mentor , providing an opportunity for the best new faces and ideas to flourish. The process has given him opportunities to stretch creatively, develop wonderful people who branched out to their own passions, and host cocktail competitions with a...