As odd as that sounds, the upstarts behind Balcones have created a range of products in their first few years that rival some of the best microdistilleries in the world. Producing the first legal whiskey in Texas since Prohibition, Balcones strives to be more than just a novelty. They are making some really well-received spirits.
Their best known product is Baby Blue, a corn whiskey that is the first U.S. product made from 100 percent blue corn. (Though it wouldn't surprise me if Corsair is working on one ...)
This unique spirit is aged in lightly charred new American oak barrels to offer some smoothness without overpowering the nuttiness of the corn. The blue corn is very sweet on the nose, but spicier and earthier on first taste. It really is difficult to describe, since it's so different from traditional corn whiskeys. Reviewers around the country have named Baby Blue among the top spirits of last year. At 92 proof, it definitely has some heat, but nothing like its older brother, True Blue.
True Blue is the cask-strength version of blue corn whiskey from Balcones. This is a boy dog liquor. Of course the intention is for consumers to use water to cut True Blue to their desired alcohol content, and at a bottling proof of 122.6, I would seriously recommend it. Personally, I was fine with the Baby Blue, and that's the bottle I bought for my home.
In addition to their two blue corn whiskeys, Balcones also makes two uniquely Texas products, Rumble and Brimstone. Rumble is sort of their version of a Texas rum, made with Texas wildflower honey, Mission figs and Demerara sugar. I haven't seen Rumble in the wild yet, but I was fortunate to taste some at the Atlanta Food and Wine Festival at one of the tasting tents. This crazy spirit tasted like a slice of buttered bread drizzled with honey and fig preserves. It was very complex with a very long finish that kept changing as it faded. I'm actually kind of glad I haven't found a bottle of this yet, because I doubt it would last long. But I've been told that it is available in town ... uh-oh.
Now Brimstone, on the other hand, that's a different beast entirely. This is a 106-proof version of Balcones' blue corn whiskey, somewhere between Baby and True Blue. But what makes this unique is the fact that they smoke the whiskey with Texas scrub oak. Notice I said "unique," not necessarily good. I know some folks that have gone nuts over Brimstone, and I've been told that Edley's is making a formidable Whiskey Mary with it, which makes a lot of sense.
But tasting it straight up or with a rock and a splash is not advisable, IMHO. When I tried it for the first time, my head literally snapped back, and I said "Gottttdammmmm!" And not in a good way. The intense smokiness of the scrub oak and the relatively high alcohol content made the experience like drinking a handful of BBQ Fritos that had been run through a juicer and heated to a rolling boil. While getting punched in the forehead at the same time. And setting a $50 bill on fire. Some whiskey writers have advised that if you can get past the first few sips, you'll discover the molasses and raisin flavors that characterize Texas barbecue sauces. I tried it three times and just can't get past it.
Needless to say, I'm not a fan, but apparently there are plenty of folks who are. If you've tried Brimstone and liked it, tell me about it in the comments and maybe you can convince me. If you want to give it a shot, hey, go for it! Maybe the best solution is to head to the bar at Edley's and ask for a single so that you don't have to invest in an entire bottle. This will be one of the rare occasions when I won't ask you to share.