Balcones Distilling hails from Waco, Texas, and has long focused on heirloom blue corn varietals in their whiskies (many of which we’ve dipped into in the past including Baby Blue, Brimstone, and True Blue Cask Strength). Roasted blue corn is milled, mashed, fermented, distilled, and matured in used oak on site at the distillery. (Drinkhacker note: Given the 100% corn content, technically the whisky could claim to be bourbon, but for the aging in used tequila casks instead of new American oak barrels.)
Balcones’ latest blue corn release is Big Baby, their first bottled-in-bond offering. For a quick refresher on the bottled-in-bond designation, the whisky must be produced by a single distiller in a single season, aged a minimum of 4 years (Big Baby is aged 5 years) in a federally bonded warehouse, and released at 100 proof.
The distillery says that as a “crisp corn whisky, Big Baby 2022 is loaded with sparkling minerality, southwestern flavors and a citrusy earthy finish. The 100-proof whisky can be enjoyed neat with soda water and agave syrup, or in a salt-rimmed cocktail.” The rather unconventional profile that it promises certainly perks one’s ears (and nose and palate) to what this can possibly amount to in a glass.
Let’s see what it delivers.
The nose is quite bright but on the astringent side, with notes of baked pecan, gritty maple syrup sweetness, and a malty agave undertone. The palate kicks off with bold introductions of peat and white pepper, oakiness drenched in the tequila-driven agave accents, lime-forward bitter citrus, and (perhaps by power of suggestion) corn husk. There is a spiced sweetness in the mix that is hard to place, but I’m going to go with Mott’s apple juice sprinkled with cinnamon and lemon rind. The finish rides on smoky agave oak for a while.
And to resolve the query, the distiller’s reference to “crisp corn whisky” that is “loaded with sparkling minerality” is an apt teaser for what you can expect. This is a spunky pour that’s surprisingly fun and easy to drink, despite such a modest touch of sweetness and bold pops of pepper and oak, with the coup de grace provided by an unexpectedly soft landing of cornflakes and roasted pecans that makes you go back for another ride on the roller coaster.
B+ / $60 / balconesdistilling.com