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Review: Balcones True Blue

As “micro” or “craft” distilleries go, few are hotter right now than Balcones out of Waco, TX. The distillery’s portfolio of whiskeys and spirits is ever increasing. Not to mention they’ve snagged some pretty high honors in recent years. In 2012 they were named craft distillery of the year by “Whisky Advocate” magazine. Master Distiller, Chip Tate, has taken the road less traveled with the distillery’s use of interesting grains, such as blue corn, for Balcones’ signature whiskeys.

Today’s review is for Balcones True Blue, the distillery’s cask strength, 100% blue corn whiskey. At 125.6 proof, this one is a big one.

Balcones True Blue Corn Whiskey, Batch TBU-12, 62.8% abv (125.6 Proof), $57/bottle
Color: Medium Amber
Nose: Brown sugar syrup, cinnamon spiced pecans, and creamy coffee liqueur overcome some of the funky, new make undertones. The oak stays very much in the background, with a rustic corn quality adding savory aromas to a very sweet nose. Overall there is a level of complexity here that belies its age
Palate: Brown sugar, HUGE cinnamon spice and chile heat, tamed a bit by dried fruits (dried apple and apricot) and honey.
Finish: Increasing warmth with a very long cinnamon and honey finish.
Overall: True Blue gained favor with me at every sip. With more air time, and a splash of water, the layers of aromas and flavors developed dramatically. It is young juice – there is no mistaking that. However there is also a level of complexity with True Blue that is astonishing. It’s clear that Chip Tate and Balcones are making very good whiskey. I’m now paying attention and looking forward to trying more of their products. If you are listening Balcones, keep a few of those barrels back for some older releases. If you do that I think you have a real stunner on your hands.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.1 (Very Good)

11 Comments

  1. Storcke says:

    How old is it?

  2. Greg says:

    I’m going to Boston this weekend for Julio’s Go Whiskey Weekend. I’m actually hooking up with the Balcones rep at the airport and giving him a lift into Westborough since we’re staying at the same hotel. He mentioned he had a couple of goodies to share. I actually met up with him in Dallas last October and he brought along some nice bottles of various Balcones offerings. I hope they have something new and interesting for this weekend.

  3. @Storcke – not sure of the exact age – no age statement. Doesn’t taste older than 12-18 months to me.

    @Greg – please keep us posted on what you try.

  4. Dave says:

    I have bottles of the Balcones Rumble & the Single Malt currently. Oh, that Single Malt. Toasted, smokey deliciousness. A very interesting pour that I can’t recommend enough.

  5. Yea, i finally just got to try their single malt and brimstone. I was really impressed with both. especially compared to the rest of the field of young craft distillers, i think these guys are doing something really interesting. Like you, jason, i’m looking forward to seeing where these guys go in the coming years.

  6. John says:

    Blue corn whiskey! I love the concept, but I gotta say I’m not a big fan of these toddler whiskeys that don’t serve adequate time in the barrel. Having said that, I understand that a new distillery has to make money, and barrels aging in a warehouse aren’t bringing in any dollars. Like you, I hope that they are holding back a substantial part of their inventory to allow it to age properly. I am tempted to buy a bottle anyway based on your overall positive experience.

  7. I think your age guess of 12-18 months may well be right, Jason. Maybe 24 months. The Baby Blue is 6-8 months. But Balcones spirits taste a lot richer and more complex than their age suggests (no matter which of the strange but compelling mash bills they’re sporting). There are 3 main reasons: 1) high heat maturation. The Waco Texas warehouse where barrels rest at Balcones bakes at well above 100 for months at a time. This is comparable to distilleries like Amrut or Kavalan that are acknowledged as tropical environments that produce rapid maturation because of climate. 2) small barrel size for the initial maturation period. Balcones small batches 5 gallon barrels into regular 50 gallon barrels for marrying (and in the case of their extra aged stuff like True Blue & Rumble Cask Reserve – extended maturation). 3) bespoke casks made with yard aged non-kiln dried oak. There’s a lot of work on the casks. There is American white oak that has been aged in both the heat of Waco and snows of Minnesota. There is also European Quercus Robur and also Texas live oak. I’ve fallen particularly hard for the Texas Single Malt, Rumble Cask Reserve, and Brimstone. Note – Balcones is rapidly evolving. Batch variation doesn’t adequately describe what is going on batch to batch. It’s evolution. Over the past 4 batches of Texas Single Malt I’ve had, proof abv% climbed from 50.5 to 52 to the current 53. Woods used barrels goes from straight white oak (Quercus Alba) to mixed to straight Quercus Robur etc… Interesting stuff. John, don’t skip it just because it’s young. This stuff has something extra going on.

  8. GQuiz says:

    There is a 100 proof version of TrueBlue, too. But what a lot of people are talking about down in SA is the Single Malt. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/16/dining/american-malted-whiskeys-win-acclaim.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
    It did quite well in England.

  9. Ricardo Castells says:

    Hi Jason, I enjoyed the Balcones review and since you are on the subject of craft distilleries, I was wondering if you were planning on reviewing any of the offerings from Prichard’s or Collier and McKeel. Thanks.

  10. Dean E says:

    Hi Jason! I really appreciate the review; lets me know to wait for a more aged product from them (if ever). I’ve had a bottle of the Baby Blue for a while and initially, it smells young, with lots of corn and alcohol. With time and water, it opens to the brown sugar and corn bread I read about online before I picked it up. Not sure I would buy it again, but find it far superior to other youthful products I bought around the same time (Arkansas Rock town “Young Bourbon” and Cedar Ridge Iowa Bourbon).

  11. RJ Thomas says:

    Definitely not for the faint-of- heart, but it’s good whiskey.
    for something exquisite try their Single Malt!