Few whiskey categories seem to draw as much divisiveness as Texas whiskey. Between whiskey’s broad technical nature and a considerable collection of brands, the Lone Star state has recently been catching more than a few eyes from drinkers. Bourbon may be America’s shining whiskey star, but other than location, Texas whiskey as an unofficial category has little in the way of restrictions. Due to the state’s scorching nature, whiskey is frequently dumped within 1-3 years of barreling. The idea isn’t necessarily that the distillate ages faster, but rather that it’s pushed into the barrels more aggressively.
A key player in Texas’ whiskey scene is Balcones which, in the span of just 13 years, has amassed an impressive portfolio. Bourbon, rye, corn, single malt, and more are represented, with most of them being pot distilled. Balcones were my first exposure to Texas whiskey at an ABC tasting event last year (literally the day before lockdown began). The expression in question? Baby Blue. Devil’s River was also on my tasting block that evening. I’ll admit, I wasn’t a fan of either. Same could be said for when I tried Balcones’ rye whiskey sometime later. Yet I’m always willing to give challenging categories multiple shakes, and today’s the latest of those with Balcones “1” Single Malt. Let’s see if it’s more of the same or a potential game-changer.
Nose: Strong maltiness. Chocolate, brown butter, and walnut. Warm honey, fig, and dates. Toasted deli-style bread. A bit of dark orange, bordering on chocolate covered.
Palate: Brown butter and honey fruit from the nose (fig and dates) carry over. Semi-sweet chocolate with barely any bitterness, as well as a touch of orange. The pot distillation does wonders for this, granting a buttery feel to complement the flavors.
Finish: Good length. Butter, honey, and walnut. Warm Fig Newtons.
Now this is a bit more my speed. What really sells me is the mouthfeel, undoubtedly thanks to the pot distillation and higher ABV. The whiskey does a great job coating the palate, which I’m always a fan of. And as my tasting notes suggest, there’s some good flavor to back this up, particularly when it comes to how buttery and borderline nutty the experience is. A respectable amount of flavor has been pulled out considering how short the maturation period is.
All that being said, Balcones “1” Single Malt loses some steam the more I sip it. I’d liken it to a chocolate that melts with textural richness but falls somewhat short in the flavor department. Still enjoyable, it just needs that final push to balance the entire experience out, potentially taking it to the next level. Maybe then the $70 price tag would feel a bit more warranted. It’s well worth trying since the experience is distinct compared to other American whiskeys, but even if you’re extra curious, I still wouldn’t suggest blindly buying a bottle.