Thursday, September 20, 2012
Craft Whiskey Week - Balcones Brimstone
The Coopered Tot).
In 2011, Balcones introduced a new product, Brimstone. They took some of their corn whiskey and smoked the distillate (not the grain, as the Scots do with peat) using Texas scrub oak. They then aged the whiskey in 55 and 60 gallon barrels for less than two years.
I participated in a Balcones tasting earlier this year (courtesy of the distillery) and generally liked what I they had to offer. The Brimstone, though, was something quite unique.
Balcones Brimstone, 53% abv ($50)
The nose opens with a strong smell of burnt rubber, like when a semi slams on the brakes, followed by some bourbon, so like when a truck full of bourbon slams on the breaks, deep into the nose you acclimate to the smoke and there's an almost sherry like frutiness. The palate is both sweet, in that fruity way, and smoky. There's honey, some burnt orange rind, still a bit of rubber though not nearly as much as on the nose and lots of campfire. It modulates between sweet and smoky with other flavors poking up; there's smoked salmon, sea water, mezcal...the more you drink the more you taste. The finish is like Los Angeles in September, a strong smoky haze from a fire somewhere nearby.
This is a pretty remarkable whiskey, different from anything else on the market. It's really packed with flavor. The smoke in this is huge, but it's nothing like peat. When I first tried Brimstone, I wasn't sure about it, but after a few different tasting sessions, I've really come to enjoy and even crave its flavors.
The craft distillery movement is at its best when it offers something completely different, not just younger or more local, but a completely new flavor profile. That's one of the reasons I'm such a big fan of Charbay's hopped whiskeys; you just can't get that flavor anywhere else. The same is true of Balcones Brimstone. It's a new style of whiskey and one that I'd welcome more of.
Brimstone ranks as one of the few craft whiskeys I've tasted that I would actually pay the asking price for. Alright Balcones, you have my attention.