In continuing my thoughts on some American craft whiskeys, I am reviewing Balcones Brimstone, a whisky (Balcones does not use the “e”) made with 100% blue corn. Balcones is a distillery out of Waco, Texas that has quickly swept the American whiskey scene with its innovative, brilliant line of whiskeys and whiskey liqueurs. The subject of today’s review is Brimstone, a whisky made from a mash of 100% blue corn and smoked with Texas Scrub oak. Chip Tate (master distiller at Balcones) has kept his secrets regarding this whisky under wraps very well, but Brimstone is smoked differently than most peated whiskies coming out to Scotland in that Balcones smokes the whisky, itself, not the grain. I suspect that this whisky is not very old, but I do not know that for sure, as there is no age statement on the bottle. The whisky is bottled in small batches (this review is of #BRM13-3) and bottled at 106 proof (53% abv).
The aroma’s of this whisky come leaping immediately out of the glass, with dry-rubbed barbecue spices, burning wood, toasted corn chips, rock salt, and caramelized onions. The palate is medium to full-bodied, and it follows up on what the nose started. Sweet corn, mesquite barbecue, and a big bonfire smoke note make up what is certainly a unique palate. The finish is long, longer than most whiskies I have encountered. Seriously, try two glasses of this whisky at about 8 pm, and see if your breakfast doesn’t taste like Brimstone whisky. The finish reminds me of a combination of barbecue smoke, wood smoke, and pipe smoke, the flavor that might linger after eating some barbecue potato chips and smoking my pipe.
I do not care for this whisky too much with water added, as it really thins the whisky out too much, rendering the whisky disjointed. However, I do really like blending this whisky with bourbon. Pouring a full 2 ounce measure of bourbon, and adding just a splash of Brimstone makes a delicious homemade blend that brings a great combination of sweet and smoky to bear. I love doing homemade blending, and I am always excited when a combination works as well as this one does. Brimstone is also a fun whisky to have in the cabinet because of how it bends your palate, and changes the flavor of whatever whisky you may taste after it.
Overall, Balcones Brimstone is certainly a unique and innovative whisky. It is hardly a whisky that one can drink often, but there are some nights (and some foods) that go really well with Balcones Brimstone. It also makes a fantastic whisky to cook with, for all its spicy, flavorful qualities. This is well-made whisky, a trend indicative of the quality of Balcones’ products. Look forward to a few more reviews of their whiskeys here at Bargain Bourbon. My grade: B-. Price: $50-60/750ml. Even though the price is a bit steep for such a young whisky, you should give Brimstone a whirl; it is a memorable whisky experience. Let it ride!