Balcones Brimstone. Now this is a whisky that I have wanted to try for a while; I have heard nothing but praise for the Texas blue corn whisky and I was delighted when I saw they were going to be The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show in London. Time however beat me that day and I thought that the dram had escaped me. This changed though at the recent Chester Whisky Festival where Jonny from The Great Whisky Company gave me an exclusive sample taste of the whisky. The Great Whisky Company are to be the exclusive importers of Balcones into the UK so it is well worth checking them out.
Balcones Brimstone is bottled at 53% and is unique in every sense of the word. It is billed as ‘Texas Scrub Oak Smoked’ which essentially means that rather than using peat smoke, as is traditional in Islay for example, this whisky is smoked with Texas scrub smoke which permeates throughout the whole whisky giving it a really unusual flavour profile. The whisky is multi award winning and recently received a massive 95.5 in Jim Murray’s 2013 Whisky Bible.
The nose was incredible, almost utterly indescribable – massive massive smoke, deep, earthy, reminiscent of burnt red sand – almost of a volcanic nature. This was mixed in with a little cinnamon sweetness before an ashy barbecue too over and powered through the senses. I was taken back to beach holidays as a child; not that I drank whisky, (my parents were far more responsible than that) but I was hit by the sun baked warm sand scent, almost as if the heat rose any more the sand would start to smoulder. Fabulous.
The palate begin with a instant and momentary sweet hit before the smoke took over in a flash. There was an abundance of oak chips mixed in with syrup, homemade honeycomb and chilli crisps. The whisky is juxtaposed between being hot and sweet – almost like barbecued ribs or Chinese chicken and this duo of flavours is central to making the whisky what it is. The overriding image I have is of Frodo trying to reach the flames and barrenness of Mordor in Lord of the Rings – it is fiery, hot and something about it just draws you in.
To say the whisky finished big would be underselling it. It was cloying, it was hot, it was sweet, it is like no other whisky I’ve tasted.
Thanks again to Jonny for this exclusive taste – I will be keeping a close eye on The Great Whisky Company as I can’t wait for it to start to hit the UK and would happily part with my cash to buy a bottle. Now I just have to find the other Balcones expressions to sample; any offers?