Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Balcones Distiller’s Selection Private Barrel Tour

This is a tweet tasting I was really over the moon to be invited onto - a tour of the fifth anniversary cask specials.  Apart from the bourbon (an oddity for Balcones, only the second ever released) these are all special casks, ACEd in some way or just older versions.  I’m a massive fan of Balcones, partly because Texas is amazing (my previous exploits here), partly because Chip Tate is so cool (making stills, making crazy liquor that’s really good, having a proper Austin beard), but mainly because of the whisky (the regular single malt, baby blue and brimstone I reviewed here).

Balcones Rumble Cask Reserve, 58.5% A⊕

Rumble is a spirit made by fermenting local honey, sugar, figs and then distilling - it’s not a whisky.  It’s pretty good fun though, and the reserve is an extra aged version, presented at cask strength.


Nose - Deeply sweet, rose water, milk chocolate, pencil shavings, fresh toasted oak and a little mint.  Light, very sweet, nicely balanced and very rich.  Carrot cake, banana bread - cakey things with raisins and walnuts in.  With water, opens up nicely with some candle wax, rich cherries and more warming spice - ginger and cinnamon.

Body - Carrot cake is huge in the neat delivery.  It’s almost too strong to sip neat, and I do usually drink stuff at cask strength.  Big Jamaican black cake and dried raisins, although strangely light with cloves.  Heavily wooded.  With water it just opens up further, with sweet oranges, massive belt of mulled wine and cloves.

Finish - Very long, very spicy and plumbing long, waxy depths of spice and burnt sugar.  Remarkable.

Balcones 5th Anniversary Bourbon Cask 2, 65.7% A⊕

This is the second bottling of Balcones bourbon.  Hopes were high for this, as the allocation to the UK was very small, and sold out immediately.  Actually I think this was the least good of the whole set.

brbon_bal6Nose - Smooth, deep, structured.  Toffee, orange zest, dried fruit, fudge and leather.  Very dark.  Freshly fried, sugared doughnuts.  Really big fried dough thing going on!  Like the Stagg, loads of intensity and depth but still held back and restrained.  Very good.  With water the nose starts to integrate a bit better, with the cake, spice and citrus fruit gelling beautifully.

Body - Deep burnt sugar and spice - lots of red chilli - and oddly drying with what I would normally think of as sulphur but obviously isn’t here.  Massive tannins here.  Needs water!  Water smooths out the delivery quite nicely and accentuates that drying tannin and sulphur making it much more grown up and elegant.
Finish - Medium, rich and sweet, ends in tannic notes at the end of the tongue.  Quite oily and satisfying. With water, even oilier, much richer and more satisfying.

Balcones 5th Anniversary Straight Malt, Rumble Cask Reserve Finish, 57.5%  A⊕+

The last three of the tasting are other whiskies ACEd (finished) in different casks.  This is Straight Malt finished in the casks that the Rumble Cask Reserve came out of.

balcones-v-straight-malt-rumble-cask-reserve-finish-barrel-2653-whiskyNose - Bright wax, barley sugar, bright but with real depth.  Pineapple kubes and tropical notes, fresh figs and a hint of burnt toffee.  Sticky toffee pudding.  Custard and cigarette tobacco.  Fruit salad chews AND black jacks.  Hazlenuts, cola and loads of Jamaican Ginger Cake.  Pretty mental, very sweet but does hang together quite well.  With water, the hazelnut really comes through, with white pepper, blond oak and smashed caramel.

Body - Very rich, highly spiced with cloves and bright tropical fruit.  Serious structure, sulphur and elegant intensity.  Lots of tropical fruit and oily wax.  Absolutely insane quality.  

Finish - Long, long, waxed and tropical.  What a stunning development.  Ends on a banana split, and chocolate coated coffee beans.

Balcones 5th Anniversary Straight Malt, Brimstone Resurrection Cask Finish, 58.3% A⊕+

Straight malt finished in Brimstone Resurrection casks.

balcones-v-straight-malt-brimstone-resurrection-cask-finish-barrel-2696-whiskyNose - More bright, deep toffee, asafoetida, cardamom, a back note of joss sticks, some bacon and maple syrup. Darkly complicated, not overtly brimstoney, bright with loads of depth. Roast pork.  With water, Mexican hot chocolate, better integration, stunning.

Body - Insane, spicy, smoked toffee.  Sudden back of the throat belt of brimstone; drying joss stocks and ashen caramel.  

Finish - Long, ashen but beautifully sweet.  Really quite a wonderful, long, balanced but intensely structured finish.  Coffee grounds.  Dark, oily and stunning.

Balcones 5th Anniversary Brimstone Resurrection, 60.5% A⊕+

Brimstone resurrection is Brimstone (smoked corn whisky) that was badly burned in the still.  The batch was rescued, aged and the results are fabulous.  “Sun grown corn, then roasted, burned, twice boiled and then "raised up" in a heavily charred barrel to be released in the third year as Brimstone Resurrection”.  This was the whisky of the night for me (and WWA winner).  

balcones-v-brimstone-resurrection-whiskeyNose - Really elegant actually; dark toffee apple, charred pig skin, BBQed beans with bacon.  Darkly rich and beany, dirty and still elegant and structured.  Actually a bit darker than the normal brimstone and tastes more sherried.

Body - Massively sherried Brimstone hit.  Darkly sweet smoke, massively drying, intense spice.  This is the Texan Uigeadail

Finish - Long, balanced, spicy, great integration.  I must own this whisky.

In comparison to normal Brimstone, this is sweeter, deeper, lots more integration and balance and a lot less joss stick. 

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