Whiskey Name: Balcones True Blue Cask Strength
Whiskey Type: Corn Whiskey
Release Date: 2016 edition
Mashbill: 100% Blue Corn
Introduction/Background: Balcones feels like one of the more prominent of the craft distilleries; certainly one of the more obviously available in the UK. It’s a brand that seems to split opinion, less because of the actual products and more because of the rather messy divorce with founder Chip Tate a little while back. This probably isn’t the best place to get too far into that.
Based down in Waco, Texas, Balcones dabble in a few styles of whisky, but their most famous is corn. It is perfectly legal for bourbon to have a 100% corn mashbill; where corn whisky differs is that, whilst bourbon must be aged in charred new oak containers, corn whisky is aged in uncharred or previously used oak.
True Blue Cask Strength is released annually. The one in my glass today is the 2016 edition. Bottled at a hefty 65.7% ABV and weighing in at an ambitious £100 through the most obvious retail channels.
Appearance: Very dark. Chestnut.
Nose: My next-door neighbour can probably smell this. An absolute barrage of burned caramel, thick treacle, orange and liquorice. Something almost dark ale-esque in the background, with a fruit character like middle-aged French brandy on steroids. Alcohol at nostril-shrivelling levels, but the aromas themselves are even more intense.
Mouth: Yep, that’s cask strength! Monster of a palate (in a good way). So much caramel and cinnamon, balanced out by oak and given structure by tannin. A big blast of toast and roasted coffee bean keep things dry, too. Would be very sweet otherwise. As with the nose, the alcohol is in blast mode, but the flavours overwhelm it, somehow providing balance against the odds.
Finish: Long. The sweet elements hang around enough to stop things from bittering.
Value for Money: At US prices, outstanding. At UK prices, just about does it.
Summary: I don’t know how many craft distilleries there are in the US right now. Enough to make me worry that there’ll be a bit of an apocalypse if whisky slips out of fashion again, as it has done so many times before. Balcones, however, are good enough to make me pretty certain they’d be one of the survivors.
This is a glorious behemoth of a whisky. I gather it cost $54 in the States last year, and at that price it ought to be snapped up by the truckload. Here in the UK it just brushes the triple figures line, at which level we have to be extra critical. The competition is very strong indeed, and a US whisky needs to be outstanding to justify it. On balance, I think that this one does, but if the price goes up any more I’d be wary.
Overall Verdict: I adore this, but it’s strictly special occasion whisky at a strictly special occasion price.
Words by WhiskyPilgrim