Eddie Pensier writes:
I first tasted Balcones Baby Blue at the marvelous Seven Grand whisky bar in downtown Los Angeles. The friendly and knowledgeable barkeep Paul was a big fan but warned me not to get too attached to the stuff: bizarre things were afoot at Balcones. Recriminations, temper tantrums, and attacks both physical and verbal led to the ouster of founder Chip Tate from the Waco, Texas distillery, right about the time I was enjoying my dram of Baby Blue in LA. I resolved to keep a cool critical distance from it.
It was not to be.
This is a glorious, unique whisky: the taste and flavor are sui generis. It’s made entirely from blue corn, and while the blueness is not apparent anywhere but the label, it’s certainly the first whisky I’ve ever had that smells like what’s in it: corn. The strongest aroma notes are fresh corn, Karo syrup, popcorn, and Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes. It’s such an amazing smell that you may find yourself nearly forgetting to drink it, preferring to just keep your nose mushed into the glass. Then the silky yellow-orange whisky beckons to you and you take a sip. Guess what: more corn! But this time it’s cooked corn: cornbread, corn pudding, corn waffles, corn glazed doughnuts (I choose to believe they exist), jonnycakes with maple syrup…you get the picture.
Baby Blue also features a cracker of a finish: just enough burn on the tongue and throat leaving behind a nutty-creamy richness and more of those incredible imaginary corn baked goods. The spirityness is more pronounced than you might expect for 46% abv, and you’ll be tasting this for hours after you’ve swallowed the last drop.
If Baby Blue intrigues you, there are other products in the range: a cask-strength version called True Blue (I was not as impressed with this as I was with Baby), and a smoked version called Brimstone, which calls the bluff of any and every whisky that has ever dared to use the word “smoky” in its description: this is basically an alcoholic campfire. There’s also an odd spirit called Rumble, distilled from honey, figs and sugar. It’s sort of rummy, sort of brandylike, not exactly a hot mess but not something I’m searching for either.
As expected for a company in flux, Balcones’ distribution is spotty. Wine-searcher has a list of outlets, and as always it’s best to call ahead to ensure they actually have it. I bought mine (and my backup bottle) at Beacon Wines & Spirits in Manhattan. Australians can order from MyBottleShop.com.au. *