May 31, 2013

Review: Balcones Brimstone - The Lone Star Beast

Spoiler Alert:  Balcones Brimstone got a SmokyBeast "A".  Check out the full review below, pick up a bottle from our friends at Caskers (on sale for the next two weeks), and tune in next week when we'll be featuring an exclusive interview with Balcones founder and head distiller Chip Tate.  (If you're afraid you're going to forget, like us on Facebook and you'll get a link to the interview).  /sb

The Hunt

Ok we've been searching long and hard for a hand-crafted whiskey that we can get behind.  We love the idea of scrappy intrepid pioneers taking on the mighty corporate distilleries.  Imagine die-hard whiskey nerds obsessing for years over the perfect combination of corn and wheat, the exact angle of that hand-hammered still, the perfect cut, and the most secret alchemist-like art of producing a warm and mature product without sitting on their barrels for a decade.  Alas our search to date has been uphill.  There are some that taste too weak.  There are some that taste too young and harsh.  There are some that are so expensive that they put themselves into impossible contests with sixteen or twenty-year aged glories from the old country.  There are some that flat-out lie and just buy Kentucky bourbon claiming to have distilled it themselves.  (links have been left out to protect the not-so-innocent)

Blue Ribbon

We're pretty thrilled to announce that we have found not only a hand-crafted original, but a genuine smoky beast of the highest calibre.  It comes at very fair price, with more than its share of beauty, grace, and balls.  In our humble opinion, it's surely destined to become a long-term whiskey powerhouse.  Enter Balcones Distilling, lead by Chip Tate, and the smokiest of Chip's creations: Balcones Brimstone.

Tasting Notes

Nose:  Layers of sweet sugar and caramel.  And that unique smoke.  It's like taking the wood out of the body of a heavily oaked malt and adding it to the nose of a bourbon.  Campfire embers.  Sweet buttered corn, watermelon (sounds crazy, but see if you can smell it), slight oiled leather, and then the spice - habanero chilli peppers, bay leaves, slow-cooked meaty chili.  Awesome balanced nose of smoke, sweet, and rich spice.

Body:  Ok this is going to sound weird, but it tastes like really well-made french toast.  Like the kind made with fresh country eggs, thick-cut bread, lots of sweet butter, and real maple syrup.  The outside of the bread is brown and crunchy from the butter and eggs and the center soaks up the sweet molasses of the syrup.

Finish:  Long and lovely finish of pipe smoke, more oak and leather, some smoldering wet grass.  The smoke is dominant, but as we've said before: it's not just the smoke, it's the balance of smoke, richness, and smoothness.  What Brimstone does so well is that it balances the smoke with the sweetness and the full-bodied corn and spice so that you can fully taste the spirit, you get that awesome warm feeling across your chest, but there's no medicinal alcohol burn.  This finish goes well with being outside under the stars.  At 53%, we prefer to drink Brimstone with only tiny dribble of water - four or five drops from the tips of the fingers or an eye dropper into a full pour of whiskey.  The high proof makes the finish last a lifetime and we relish savoring the smoky sweet remnants.


Brimstone is just what we were looking for.  It's delicious, it's unique, and it's just the kind of new experience that we look for in a hand-crafted whiskey.  At near cask strength it's incredibly drinkable with only a tiny bit of water, which is nothing short of a miracle for a young whiskey.  It's honestly the first smoky American whiskey that we've fallen for the way we do for Islay malts.  We love bourbon, but to find an American whiskey that embraces smoke like this is tremendous.  If this is what Texas whiskey is all about, sign us up!  Make no mistake, this is a beast of the smokiest variety.  It's not for the faint of heart.  But if you are a smoke lover, you simply must try it.  $55 for a handmade product of this quality?  It's a straight "A".  Bravo Chip, you've got a hell of a beautiful beast on your hands here.

Click here to continue reading Balcones - The Birth of a Beast Part 2...



  1. I had a taste of this Beast today, and was I pleasantly surprised! It dances in the mouth, very complex medley. Hot, smoky, sweet but in a woody way. Absolutely a fine sipper.

  2. I got to taste this the other day, and I have to say it was delicious! The deeply smoked and rich flavor is nothing like I've had before, yet very reminiscent of a peaty scotch from Islay, such as Laphroaig or Lagavulin, yet completely unique. I can very easily see this becoming a staple of my home bar.