One of the most well-regarded and awarded micro-distilleries in America, Balcones was founded in 2008 by Chip Tate. Although he left in a bitter dispute with his investors (who alleged, among other things, that Tate threatened to shoot the board chairman), the distillery continues to produce single malt, bourbons and corn whiskies that attract much attention, and often try innovative production methods like distilling from roasted heirloom blue corn (their "Baby Blue" corn whiskey) or smoking with Texas scrub oak.
Their Texas Single Malt is their core product, matured for at least 15 months, and bottled non-coloured and non-chill-filtered, at 53% ABV.
The colour is a dark reddish copper. On the nose we have burnt toffee, rum raisin, dark honey, vanilla and rich dark chocolate. Grilled peaches. Barbecue sauce. Some wood smoke. A little estery in the background. Lighter and slightly maltier with water. Complex but a bit too heavy for my taste.
On the palate there are more sweets like chocolate, toffee and rum raisin. Overripe banana. Huge oak. Cinnamon and cloves. A hint of orange (kind of like those chocolate oranges you get at Christmas). The high alcohol is not overpowering, which is nice. Chewy mouthfeel - somehow, ever chewier with water (which is really not necessary). Very rich!
The finish is long and meaty, with - again - more chocolate, bovril, massive oak and, hiding in the background, light cereal notes. Though this is not totally in my wheelhouse, it's pretty bracing stuff - heavy and rich, but so much oak you really lose the malt. Had I tasted it blind, I would never have guessed this was a single malt. Although Balcones has a huge cult following, and overall I do like this whiskey, I've never been a huge fan of their products. They have enormous integrity but I appreciate their whiskey more than I enjoy it personally. Winner of Best American Single Malt at the 2016 World Whiskies Awards.
I enjoy this one batch 14-8, probably a high 80's if I was scoring. Much better than Stranahan's for comparison.
@talexander, so this batch is from the post-Chip Tate era, apparently.
The oak influence here, which I surmise is (mostly or totally) new oak aging, takes an aggressive posture which is rare with malts aged in re-used barrels. It is a tricky thing using virgin oak with barley-malt whisky. The oak influence can be easily overdone and in the process overpower the barley.
Yes, I do think that in the Balcones 1 Single Malt the wood influence is very strong, and something that some will like and others not so much.