With more than 15 years of experience as a home brewer and a diploma from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling in London, Chip Tate, owner and master distiller of Balcones Distilling (which was recently named the 2012 World Wizard of Whisky Distiller of the Year), is serious about making craft spirits. Incredibly, Tate began the process of making Balcones Texas Single Malt Whisky by first building his distillery in Waco, Texas. Every square inch of Balcones Distilling, from the 235-gallon copper pot stills hammered by hand to the woodwork and copper plumbing, was made by the distillers at Balcones. "Our equipment is built exactly the way we want it," says Tate. "We know because we built it that way."
Handcrafted in small batches, Balcones Texas Single Malt Whisky is made from 100% malted Golden Promise barley. Golden Promise is an early-maturing spring barley that has a depth of flavor ideal for single malts. While it was popular in Scotland for many years, it gave way to cheaper barely that was higher in yield but lower in quality.
After mashing the malted barley, Tate slowly ferments it at cool temperatures for seven days. His fermentation process, which takes nearly twice as long as most other distilleries and is done at much lower temperatures, ultimately produces a richer, smoother whisky. After distillation, Tate ages the whisky using a unique barreling process. "The main difference between Balcones and other single malts,"he explains, "is the barreling. The cooperage we use and the care we put into blending and reblending the casks defines a lot of what makes our malt what it is. All of the barrels used are bespoke casks made from fully yard-aged oak with custom toast and char profiles."
While most single malts age in a single, large cask of a certain variety their entire lives (for Scotch, this is typically a used bourbon cask), Tate blends and rebarrels each cuvée of Balcones Texas Single Malt through several barrels of different sizes and oak profiles in order to create uniquely round and complex flavors. While a batch of Balcones Single Malt may begin aging in toasted American oak barrels, it may also age in French oak and European oak barrels before being bottled by hand.
"We go out of our way to prevent excessive wood extraction,"he says. "With both small and large barrels, you risk a very strong wood profile in the Texas heat. By rotating the whisky, different characteristics emerge from each type of wood, depending on the size of the barrel, and how long the whisky rests inside."
For Tate, creating the perfect Texas Single Malt Whisky is a labor of love. After the whisky has reached its peak of maturity, it is slowly proofed by hand. Each batch of Balcones Single Malt is then bottled and labeled with the type of wood in which the whisky was finished.
Balcones Texas Single Malt Whisky will appeal to Scotch and bourbon drinkers alike. With notes of warm toffee, dark sugar and caramel, it has a flavor profile similar to Scotch. In addition, the barreling process adds notes of honey and vanilla, which would appeal to any bourbon drinker.
Balcones Texas Single Malt Whisky is Texas made, Texas proud. Pick up a bottle today!
106 (53.0% ABV)
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Nose of dried figs, caramelized sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon. Initial palette of cinnamon and sauteed pears. Slightly mellow mid-palate with notes of toasty malt and some nuttiness. Warm, drying finish with a subtle, roasted hazelnut flavor.