Saturday, 14 September 2013
Scotland may be the home of whisky, but exciting things are happening around the world, with many distillers pushing boundaries and challenging our perceptions in the process.
One such distiller is Chip Tate at the Balcones Distillery, which is situated in Waco, Texas. Chip and his team have been working with hopi blue corn to create a range of outstanding whiskies, but it is the Brimstone which has been gathering a lot of attention.
This is no ordinary whisky - it is a Texas scrub oak smoked corn whisky bottled at 53%, and it packs one hell of a punch. It may be smoked, but this is nothing like the peaty smoke found in Islay's excellent malts; rather than smoke the grain, Balcones actually smoke the whisky to produce the Brimstone, giving it a unique flavour profile which is quite unlike anything I've ever tasted before.
Its fiery red colour is the first sign this spirit means business - it should also be noted that Balcones don't chill-filter their whisky or add colouring.
Pop the cork and you are immediately hit with a rubber note, like screeching tyres on baking hot tarmac. Pour a drop and you don't even have to stick your nose in the glass - it makes its presence known straight away. However, bring it up, take a sniff and be prepared for a quite incredible experience.
On the nose there is the unmistakable smell of smoking embers, burnt salted popcorn, dry roasted peanuts, dark chocolate, brown sugar and honey-cured bacon slathered in a spicy barbecue sauce. It's utterly unique.
The taste is similarly impressive and slowly 'chewing' the Brimstone is unforgettable as the spirit has a sweetness to it which then turns into a sweet and hot chipotle sauce which coats the mouth beautifully.
The finish goes on forever, with honey-covered charcoal bricks and waves of dark chocolate, red chilli, rich caramel, black cherry syrup and a touch of mint hanging around for ages.
Admittedly, the Brimstone won't be for everyone and initially, I really wasn't sure about it. However, I am now more than half way through the bottle and this is definitely a whisky which gets better the more time you spend with it. I've found that initial rubbery smell to have subsided quite a bit and my tastebuds are now used to the spirit's unique characteristics.
It's not an every day dram, that's for sure, but for sitting round a bonfire or eating with food prepared on a barbecue, it is a perfect fit. I had a dram with spicy pulled pork and it was a taste sensation.
Excellent stuff from Balcones - one of the most exciting distilleries around at the moment.