For background on Balcones, read my review of their 100 proof straight rye, which I liked very much indeed. The distillery’s Pot Still Bourbon is a classically-styled straight bourbon whiskey made on Balcones’ new Scottish-made Forsyth’s copper pot stills (they also have a smaller pair of Portuguese pot stills). The bourbon is aged “at least 24 months in oak”, which is a statement that appears commonly on younger bourbons these days. It’s a little sad that they feel the need to put “24 months” instead of “2 years” just to sound a little bit less like it was aged the legal minimum for ‘straight’ whiskeys, as is the fact that they say “in oak” as if there’s another choice. Still, label nit-picking is just that, so let’s move on.
The Texas Pot Still Bourbon uses a unique mash bill of four grains: roasted blue corn, Texas wheat, Texas rye and malted barley. The flavor makes me think they’re using a darker malt on the barley than is standard for most malt whiskies, but I can’t find any verification online.
All Balcones whiskeys are pot distilled in batches and bottled without chill-filtration or added coloring. My bottle is from batch TPSB1901 and was bottled (I assume that’s what the date means) on 2/19/2019. Note that Balcones also sells two blue-corn whiskeys, a single malt, the aforementioned rye, and a number of special releases. The price of this Pot Still Bourbon looks very close to the 100 proof rye, with most US retailers carrying both for very close to $30.
Nose: Shy. Whoever thought anything from Texas would be ‘shy’? Fruit leather, cherry preserves (or pie, if you must), dark brooding oak sugars, and balsamic vinegar. An extremely long rest in the glass (~20 minutes) finally balances the aroma around a sweet base of dark chocolate torte. Delectable, but took long enough…
Palate: Thin body. Robust tongue burn (more than expected for 46% ABV). Dusty cocoa. Oak, but without too much bitterness. Chocolate malt and stout beer.
Finish: Medium-long. Lots of tannin from the oak – mouth-drying and almost minty. Cocoa nibs, continuing the chocolate from the aroma through to the finish. Fades slowly but without adding anything.
With Water: More than a few drops of water increase the fruit notes (slightly) on the aroma, tame the burn (slightly) on the palate, and add some mint (slightly) on the finish. I (slightly) recommend water.
Overall: In contrast to the rye, which is dialed up to 11, this bourbon takes its sweet damn time waking up and joining the party. When it does, it’s a study in cocoa, with several facets of dark, deeply flavored chocolate. This is balanced nicely by a thread of cherry that carries through from the aroma to the finish. It’s an excellent value at $30, if you’re willing to let it wake up and don’t expect it to wow you on first contact. If you’re at the store deciding between this or the 100-proof rye, and there’s only a $5 or less difference, go for the rye first.