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Balcones '1' Texas Single Malt

Average score from 8 reviews and 11 ratings 88

Balcones '1' Texas Single Malt

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Balcones '1' Texas Single Malt

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.

@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.

I enjoy this one batch 14-8, probably a high 80's if I was scoring. Much better than Stranahan's for comparison.


Balcones Distilling in Waco, Texas distilled this no age statement 'single' malt. The whiskey was bottled on 4 November 2011. A variety of American and European oaks were used for maturation. I thank @Maddie for the reviewed sample

Nose: like Batch SM 12-2, Batch SM 11-2 shows strong cereal-barley, nuts, lots of wood spice, vanilla, and a faint hint of flowers. Like 12-2, 11-2 is very pleasant and well-balanced, though not quite as vibrant. Score: 21.5/25 points

Taste: once again, there is a lovely vivid translation of the nose flavours to the mouth. The spice is very crisp and the cereal quality of the barley is very aggressive. Very nice. Score: 22.5/25

Finish: long finish, ending on some lower pitch wood flavours and a hint of sourness. Score: 21/25

Balance: good to very good throughout, though not as impressive as Batch SM 12-2. Score: 22/25

Water added: 1) brought out high-pitched sweetness in the nose, and 2) greatly increased thick middle and deep spicy wood flavours in the mouth. Batch SM 11-2 is very interesting and enjoyable with water added

Total Sequential Score: 87 points


Strength: very strong flavours throughout. Score: 23/25 points

Quality: good quality grain flavours; excellent quality wood flavours. Score: 22/25

Variety: very good variety of flavours. Score: 22/25

Harmony: same description as Balance, above. Score: 22/25

Total Non-Sequential Score: 89 points

  • Comment: Balcones Single Malt has a lot going for it, though I do not find Batch SM 11-2 to be quite as impressive as Batch SM 12-2. This is a malt well worth trying, when you have the chance

Interesting - I have a bottle of Batch 16.3 coming my way in the next day or two - we will have to compare notes!

@talexander, I think that you will find the wood flavours particularly interesting and a bit unusual in the Balcones Single Malt. There's some very spicy European oak included in the mix.


Balcones Distillery in Waco, Texas released this no age statement 'single' malt whiskey. Batch SM 12-2 was bottled 13 February 2012. A variety of American and European oaks are used in the maturation process. I thank @numen for the reviewed sample

Nose: strong intensity barley-cereal flavours, with a hint of floral perfume and well-integrated vanilla. Nuts and spice are noticeable. Excellent sweet/dry balance. Very harmonious nose. Score: 22.5/25 points

Taste: big piquante flavours, with all of the nose flavours expressing with an edge and style. Delicious. Score: 23/25

Finish: stays long and very strong, ending on very slightly sour cereal. Score; 21.5/25

Balance: excellent in the nose; very good on delivery; good on the finish. Score: 22.5/25

Water added: 1) brings out an enjoyable nuttiness and deepens the wood pitches, and 2) lowers the pitches in the mouth. This Balcones Single Malt Batch 12-2 is quite interesting with water added

Total Sequential Score: 89.5 points

Strength: very strong flavours in all phases. Score 23.5/25

Quality: everything is delicious except for that little bit of sour at the very end. Score: 23/25

Variety: about as much variety as is possible in a simple barley-malt whiskey without peat/smoke/brine/wine. Score: 22/25

Harmony: same as the Balance description above. Score: 22.5/25

Total Non-Sequential Score: 91 points

Comment: for an unadorned barley-malt whiskey Balcones squeezes out just about as much flavour as you can get. Strong malt flavours accompany strong wood flavours. Both are delicious. Highly recommended

@talexander, I do think that there is some batch variation in the Balcones # 1 Single Malt, but I have also noticed since Day 1 when we first met 5 years ago that you and I tend to use very different descriptors for almost every whisk(e)y. Not a bad thing, of course, just a very different perceptive and interpretive sense.

Another thing with Balcones Malt, I bet that you will notice significant evolutions in the flavour profile after it has been open quite awhile. In the case of the reviews I did, the bottles had been very long opened. I would not now be able to define how one or both of them tasted when first opened, but I do remember thinking that the experience had changed quite a bit. In all cases I did still enjoy the product.

Great review! I just reviewed some of batch 16-3. Not bad but not amazing - and your notes seem very different from mine, so perhaps there is quite a bit of batch variation?


This American single malt is a simply complex whisky. On the nose, a full arrangement of floral spices, sweet honey and orange peel. On the tongue, spicy sweet cinnamon honey and orange peel. Hints of cobbler. Finished off with the overwhelming cinnamon. This review will be updated in a few weeks. It has been a long time since actually sipping this wonderful dark amber whisky.


The first two whiskies I had from Balcones Distillery were the Brimstone Resurrection and the Brimstone Blue Corn. Both spirits being uniquely treated to sun baked Texas Oak smoke.

The result was a truly unique flavor profile which can be best described as a spicy Texas campfire. Now for those of you who know me I'm a sucker for anything unique and anything that can challenge my palate and both of these wonderful whiskies ticked the right boxes for me.

With my curiosity piqued I got my hands on one of the very few single malts out of USA, the Balcones Texas Single Malt.

Chip Tate, the owner of this wonderful micro-distillery, uses a secret formula to mature his spirit - experimenting with used bourbon barrels of different sizes and ages to create his flavors.

The Texas Single Malt is distilled from Scottish malted barley called The Golden Promise. Produced by Northern Brewers this traditional strain has a sweet, clean flavor and is favored for making good Scottish ale.

My sample is from Batch SM12-10 (bottled 12/31/2012) and served at 53%.

NOSE : So fruity. Lots of citrus. Floral. Light fleshy fruits. Banana. Apricots. Jack fruit. So much Jack Fruit it's insane. Chocolate. More Horlicks. Fresh grass. Beeswax. Honey dew melon. And mango. This reminds me of a Yamazaki Distiller Reserve I recently tried. Like a tropical fruit basket.

PALATE : Chili. Lots of it first up. Mellows out mid-palate with pink melon. Chocolate. Lots of oak. Fennel. Cumin. Banana. And there it is again. That jack fruit. That never-ending jack fruit. Such an overripe tropical fruit platter.

FINISH : Long. Oak. Orange. Pink papaya. And the melon is back.

Now let me be honest. After the first two Balcones I had pegged this distillery to produce only highly smoked, insanely unique flavor profiles. However, this Texas Single Malt is more like a Scapa 16 and Yamazaki Distillers' Reserve blended together.

That's not entirely a bad combination but it doesn't work for me given my first two experiences. One need not go to Waco, Texas to get this flavor profile. With some creative blending it can be found in Scotland.

Mind you, it's not that bad but it certainly belies it's heritage as a kick-ass Texan.


Continuing with my Balcones exploration I decided to crack open the single malt last night. It's listed as 53% and I figured a nice biggish whiskey would paired up with the latest episode of The Walking Dead would be the perfect way to end the evening.

A fruity, sweet, vanilla nose, with dusty cocoa, bananas, pears, honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, some citrusy oranges, and a slight nuttiness.

Let's see if the palate matches up with the nose!

Very sweet whiskey!

Citrusy oranges, brown sugar, molasses, vanilla, bananas, buttery apples, honey, more oranges, and cinnamon.

Very enjoyable, although a little too sweet for my palate.

A very long sweet finish, full of oranges, apples, other orchard fruits and vanilla ends the whiskey.

Personally this whisky is a little too sweet for my palate, but is still very enjoyable.

The Balcones single malt has no age statement, but I personally reckon it's along the lines of a 2 to 3 year old whiskey, but that's very much a sneaky guess I could easily be wrong.

Regardless I will be picking up a bottle of this in the near future. Sometimes you just want a single malt that's not your typical Australian, Japanese or Scottish whisky and I think this whiskey fits the bill perfectly! It retails at around $160-$170 AUS, so if you get the chance, try it before you buy it, because it is quite sweet.


This bottle is dated 2-13-12. Nose: Following an initial burst of sour flower petals, there is a steady stream of cake frosting and confectionery sugar. Lightly dusty and smoky, trace amounts of the sourness remain. Vanilla (clearly in the 'frosting' element) with some anise, nutmeg (and a pinch of semi-sweet brown spices). Pressed orange zest?

Palate: Very rich on entry. More dust and smokiness with more frosting (creamy sweet, not saccharine or granular). Sour orange blossom flower. Honey and tight wood, somewhat drying. A few drops of water draws out the sweet and dry, and dilutes the sour.

Finish: A continuation of the palate. I'm not really sure what the source of the sourness is, and it's more pronounced than it was in the Baby Blue, so I would guess that it's from the tight wood. Admittedly, this is not a great comparison because this is a malt and the Baby Blue is from corn, but the type of sourness is the same. The dustiness is also similar to the 'Baby Blue,' delicious, but quieter here. Strong flavors, not overwhelming. The sour note just throws me a bit.

I will be interested, at some point, in trying the True Blue to compare it both to the Baby Blue (for the corn/dustiness element) and the "1" Texas Single Malt (for the wood/sourness). It's good, though I slightly prefer the Baby Blue.

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