Whiskey Review: Balcones True Blue 100

Balcones True Blue 100Balcones Distilling is famous for two things: innovative whiskeys, and its former founder, Chip Tate, a man known throughout the distilling community as an uncompromising visionary with an iconoclastic attitude. Tate, who the New York Times describes as “a passionate nonconformist,” founded Balcones in 2008 with the mission to create a truly Texas whisky (yes, without the “e”). Unsatisfied with a plug-and-play approach, Tate built all his equipment himself, even his stills and barrels, and began making spirits with a uniquely Texas flavor using ingredients like blue corn and wildflower honey.

As his distillery grew, Tate’s need for capital grew alongside, and in 2013 he took on outside investment. Almost from the beginning, the partnership was rocky, and by late 2014 Tate had been forced out of Balcones with a buyout and a fifteen month non-compete agreement that precludes him from making whiskey again until later this year. As we learned in an interview with him last year, Tate is laying the groundwork for a new distillery, Tate & Company, where he’ll produce whiskey and, in a slight but exciting departure, brandy.

In the meantime, Balcones Distilling has continued producing the Texas whiskies Tate built his reputation on, including the True Blue series, made from 100% blue corn. The first product ever sold by Balcones was Baby Blue, a young blue corn whisky they still offer today. True Blue 100 is the lower-proof sibling of True Blue Cask Strength, the same spirit but bottled at nearly 60% ABV. The 100 proof point seems to have been chosen to intentionally reference bottled-in-bond bourbons and their reputation for low-key quality and reliability.

True Blue 100 doesn’t carry an age statement, so it’s hard to know whether this spirit was made during Tate’s tenure or not. Regardless, it certainly carries the impression of his influence.

Tasting Notes

Appearance: A rich orange-red color with thick, branching legs

Aroma: Delightful. Corn milk, grass, light brown sugar, pear, creamy vanilla bean gelato, and grilled pineapple spears. Lots of fruity-floral esters.

Palate: Initially quite sweet with strong notes of coconut and pineapple, the mid-palate takes a decidedly drier turn with herbaceous notes of sage and lavender as well as a tangy kind of tannin that comes off as a little medicinal.

Finish: On the dry side with cocoa-like bitterness and gum-tingling tannin. Surprisingly dry for the lushness of the aroma.

Conclusion

If this whisky were a perfume, I’d wear it. I’m a little less sold on the palate and finish. While pleasant, they’re a major departure from the aroma, to the point that this almost feels like two different spirits. And, though it’s bottled at 100 proof, it tastes hotter than that to me (perhaps a function of its lean, tannin-heavy finish). At $70 for a 750 ml bottle, this isn’t an inexpensive whisky, but if you know you enjoy corn spirits and you’re interested in trying something a little different, it’s worth seeking out.

Score: 86/100 [SHOP FOR A BOTTLE OF BALCONES TRUE BLUE 100]