Whiskey Review: Balcones Texas Blue Corn Bourbon

, | February 19, 2016

Balcones Texas Blue Corn BourbonBalcones, as I discussed in my review of their Staff Selection Single Barrel, is a small but rapidly growing craft whiskey distillery out of Waco, Texas. Founded in a truly DIY spirit, Balcones’ whiskies are unique because of their meticulous production methodology, and the exceptional final product that this process produces.

Bespoke to a T, Balcones’ distillery is in a revamped metalworking shop, their stills were handmade by the founders, and their original source for heirloom blue corn was local Hopi people. “We quickly went through all they could supply us with” says Head Distiller Jared Himstedt, “and we currently have a Midwest co-op that is growing our blue corn for us. ”

The first distillery in the U.S. to produce a blue corn whiskey, Balcones now has some competitors in the field; Don Quixote Winery and Distillery in Los Alamos, New Mexico, produces both a bourbon and a vodka made from blue corn, while Wood Hat Distillery in New Florence, Missouri, produces a four-month-old blue corn whiskey. However, a quick Google search for “blue corn whiskey” makes it obvious that the major contender in the category is Balcones and its various iterations of blue corn whiskey. Balcones’ blue corn offerings are as follows: Baby Blue, True Blue 100, True Blue Cask Strength, and the subject of this review —Texas Blue Corn Bourbon.

Himstedt explains that the difference between their blue corn expressions comes mostly from the barrel selection and aging process. Each of the blue corn expressions begins with “the same 100% blue corn spirit,” but that is where the similarities end.

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Baby Blue is “intentionally younger and fresher with less wood character,” which is showcased by choosing barrels that allow the blue corn elements to shine through, as well as a lower bottling proof (92) than the other blue corn expressions. The Baby Blue expression is aged in all used barrels and bottled a minimum of six months.

Many of the same barrels that initially housed Baby Blue then graduate to housing True Blue, which is in turn bottled at either 100 proof or cask strength (approximately 122 proof, depending on the iteration). The True Blue expressions are aged in used barrels and bottled at around two years.

The Texas Blue Corn Bourbon must be aged in new charred oak according to bourbon law, and is bottled at two to three years. The bourbon is also bottled at cask strength (64.5% ABV in this instance), lending some real body and kick to the drinking experience.

Tasting Notes:

Appearance: Richly amber in the glass like every other Balcones I’ve seen, Texas Blue Corn Bourbon looks just like its brethren.

Nose: Less hot on the nose than its cask strength Staff Selection sibling, Texas Blue Corn quickly slides past the initial ethanol burn of its ABV and onto the real characteristics that define it. Burnt sugar atop rich, buttery spiced custard make for a creme brulee effect at first sniff. Baked pumpkin, young green pear, and vanilla bean-flecked cream combine to highlight a very autumnal nose. However, unlike most scents described as autumnal, Texas Blue Corn lacks the cliche “baking spices” element of the fall-forward nose—instead the rich, fatty, pumpkiny cream elements make for a unique and refined nose.

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Palate: On the palate, a big wave of salty, rich flavor that is deeply blue corn hits. Blue corn masa, cigars, and leather lend incredible body to the dram. The interplay between sweet and salty creates a pretzels-dipped-in-caramel element that is genuinely addicting. Texas Blue Corn is a sweet and savory taste bomb like no other.

Finish: The finish is lingering salt, buttered toast, and oh so satisfying—a touch hot on the finish, but nothing like would be expected from a cask-strength whiskey.


In my tasting notes for Balcones’ Texas Blue Corn Bourbon I wrote both that I could drink this spirit every day of my life and that “corn is the best!”, and I continue to stand by those comments. This whiskey is unlike any other I’ve tasted, and one that has incredible character in addition to an interesting backstory. Perfect for craft whiskey enthusiasts in addition to those seeking the highest quality drams available, this whiskey is a winner all around. An absolute star and a new classic in my book.


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Savannah Weinstock

I am a graduate of Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR whose Environmental Studies thesis focused on “Scotch Whisky, Sustainability, and Commodification of Nature & Culture”. While writing my thesis, I spent time living and studying in Glasgow, Scotland where I visited and interviewed distilleries nationwide, concentrating on the...