For this imposing Texas Whisky, I’ve got to get out my old record player, hook it up to the hay bale-sized speakers, and crank up some Wagner. It’s time for the Ride of the Balcones! Dum-da-da-da-dah-dah, da-da-da-dah-dah, da-da-da-dah-dah, dum, dum, dum, duummmm! You see, this whisky is a standout. No wonder they put a “1” right there in the name. They should have held down the shift key so it was an exclamation point. Special Release! I should say so. The nose on this dark dark dram is really good. It brings me back to the cruise ship entertainer who used a Dremel tool to carve caricatures of passengers from tropical fruit, and pushed in raspberries for eyes so far that they ran tears of blood. Only the 15-year old with the Kimono Draggin t-shirt dug it. Then there’s Dutch clogs, but a pair used (once!) in competition by a mixed martial artist. Pancake syrup atop a gingerbread house, with a kale leaf decoupage for siding.
The mouth recalls my first attempt at a tangerine liqueur. Green olives in cardboard jars. Or cardboard martini glasses readied for a picnic. First drag of a menthol cigarette after escaping a 3-alarm fire. Peach nectar used as a hornet lure. This has far more complexity and bathos than any American single malt has a right to have. I expected more kick from the 53% ABV. It’s there, all right, but it catches you late and right behind the ear because you were waiting for a jab.
The finish is long and, wow, the spice unfolds like a magic carpet, except that this is no ordinary carpet. It’s a runner for a huge staircase so it really long and you can just lose yourself in the repeating patterns. Maple syrup, toasted rye crackers, butterscotch, melon rind, white bean sage tapenade—I could go on and on. But instead I’m going to refill my glass.
The Balcones 1 Texas Single Malt Whisky is Ima Hogg–That’s not a person that Moe Szyslak is vainly trying to locate in his eponymous tavern. It’s the remarkable “First Lady of Texas,” a musician, art collector, philanthropist, community leader, and much more. Never married, she told a friend that she turned down thirty proposals. That’s about as many awards as this fine whisky has won.
–Our thanks to Winston Edwards and Balcones for the sample!