Showing posts with label corn whiskey. Show all posts
Showing posts with label corn whiskey. Show all posts

Monday, October 11, 2021

Balcones True Blue Straight Corn Barrel Proof Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes (2021)


Texas whiskey. It is about as polarizing a whiskey category as it gets. I can tell you that until a year ago, I wasn't a fan at all of it. I found it hot, one-or-two notes (oak and corn or corn and oak), and pricey, especially for the return on investment.

As I was saying, a year ago I found one that changed my mind and allowed me to #DrinkCurious with less fear. I still find fault in many Texas offerings, but I'm keeping the door open to discover hidden gems. If you're interested, it was The Musician from Still Austin.

One of the reasons Texas whiskey is, well, unappealing is everything ages there so quickly due to the heat. It can, as we saw this past February, get pretty darned cold there, too. But, mostly it is hot. And, many distilleries choose to age in smaller barrels, making the corn and oak, oak and corn dominance even stronger.

Today I'm sipping on another Texas whiskey. This time, it is from Balcones Distilling out of Waco. Balcones is a grain-to-glass distillery, using blue corn from New Mexico and barley from Texas. Founded in 2008 in an old welding shop, operations were up and running a year later. It utilizes copper pot stills. Then, in 2016, it opened a new distillery in a former storage building which was many more times the size of the original. Jared Himstedt, Balcones' Head Distiller, was a homebrewer before joining the team at Balcones from its inception.

"At barrel proof, True Blue Cask Strength preserves the bold flavors and aromas straight from our premium barrels. Select casks yield a power expression of our blue corn whisky that opens with deep notes of brown sugar, roasted nuts and buttered toast, while lingering honeysuckle and citrus accents usher in a long finish with hints of cinnamon. Crafted from scratch at Balcones, and held to the highest standards of quality, this whisky can be enjoyed “as is” or with as much water as you prefer." - Balcones Distilling

The cask strength True Blue Straight Corn Whiskey is a once-a-year, single-barrel product made from roasted blue corn, and aged 41 months in vintage, American cooperage. The barrel size and source are undisclosed. It is non-chill filtered and naturally colored.  The 2021 version is a whopping 65.8% ABV (or 131.6°), and if you can find it, you'll pay about $64.99.

A local distributor provided me with a sample of True Blue in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. I won't make him wait any further.


Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, True Blue may be the reddest mahogany color I've seen, and I include whiskeys that have been aged in red wine casks. It formed a medium-width rim that made a slow curtain collapse back to the pool.

Nose:  Plain and simple, this starts as a caramel bomb. Additional aromas included banana pudding, vanilla, cinnamon, and toasted oak. When I drew the vapor into my mouth, sweet corn raced across my tongue.

Palate:  Warm and oily, the mouthfeel told me this whiskey was not fooling around. Praline pecan and vanilla cream greeted the front of my palate. That changed to heavy maple syrup on the middle. The back was an interesting blend of cinnamon, clove, and butterscotch.

Finish: Texas is big, and so is True Blue's finish. It started sweet with honey and maple syrup, then moved to spicy with cinnamon, coffee, and clove. 

Bottle, Bar, or BustWhile the mouthfeel told me it was very serious, True Blue didn't drink at its stated proof. Look 130° and more is going to get your attention. It will always do so. But, there are some that are like drinking napalm and others that are shockingly smooth (yeah, I know, that's a frowned-upon term in the whiskey world). True Blue may also be the best Texas whiskey I've had to date. The wow factor was surprising. There was nothing about it that I disliked, and I would absolutely buy a Bottle at $64.99. You should, too. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Deerhammer Rough & Tumble Hickory Smoked Corn Whiskey ABV Network Pick Review & Tasting Notes


It isn't often that I have to pony up full disclosure so soon in a review, but you need to absolutely know where I'm coming from on this one. A website I write regularly for is Bourbon & Banter. B&B does it all - reviews of every alcoholic beverage you can think of, advice, gear reviews, a podcast, and even my annual #30DaysofBourbon Challenge (hint, hint, be on the lookout at the end of August).

Today I'm reviewing a private bottling of Deerhammer Rough & Tumble Corn Whiskey, picked by the folks at ABV Network, and specifically Steve Akley, owner of ABV Network.

I do not write for, nor have I ever written for ABV Network. Oh, I've been on one or two of Stephanie McNew Burton's podcast episodes, but I have no real relationship with it otherwise.  In fact, ABV Network is a competitor, at least from a Bourbon & Banter perspective. My point is, I have no incentive to be nice or complimentary in this review. If I wanted to be a jerk, I could easily sandbag it. 

Fortunately, that's not what Whiskeyfellow is about. This is a place for no-strings-attached, honest reviews, no matter whose juice it is or who is behind it. If I've panned a whiskey in the past, I'm happy to take on another whiskey from the same distillery (or producer). Every whiskey is a new opportunity and each stands on its own.

Frankly, I had no idea ABV Network did private bottlings. It certainly makes sense they would, as Bourbon & Banter does barrel picks, too. Someone asked me if I've had a chance to try ABV's Rough & Tumble pick, and as the whiskey world is smaller than you'd ever guess, I reached out to Steve and asked if he'd be willing to send me a sample. He was amiable and, well, here we are.

What's Deerhammer? You've never heard of it?  Yeah, that doesn't surprise me. It is a microdistillery located in Buena Vista, Colorado. I had lived in Colorado for over twenty years, I'm very familiar with "Be-You-Nee" as the locals call it. That's the capital of white water river rafting. I had no clue this tiny town housed a distillery! Founded in 2010 by Amy and Lenny Eckstein, Deerhammer is a grain-to-glass operation. Interestingly enough, Lenny built the distillery himself using old dairy equipment and repurposed machinery. He then had a Scottish-style direct-fire 140-gallon pot still that was built in Arkansas. Coincidentally, Buena Vista is on the Arkansas River, although I'll assume one has nothing to do with the other.

Rough & Tumble is a hickory-smoked corn whiskey distilled from a mash of 100% Colorado-grown corn sourced from the Four Corners area. It is initially exposed for one day to a cold-smoking process, then, using a sour mash, spends four days in an open fermentation tank before being sent through that pot still... twice. 

ABV Network chose Batch 12, finished in ex-Bourbon barrels, and weighed in at 98.76°.  A 750ml bottle will set you back $45.00. But, is this (or any) hickory-smoked whiskey worth the investment? The only way to know for sure is to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Rough & Tumble presented as the color of brass. It formed a medium ring that generated long, wavy legs that fell back to the pool. 

Nose:  As you'd suspect, the first thing that hit my nose was hickory smoke. There was also something floral about it. I found corn, mineral oil, and marshmallow fluff. When I brought the aroma into my mouth, hickory was joined with vanilla.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was oilier than I expected. The palate was uncomplicated, with vanilla and marshmallow on the front, corn and hickory smoke on the middle, and oak, hickory smoke, and clove on the back. 

Finish:  I timed just over six minutes on this finish!  It was almost chewy with hickory-smoked meat and oak. There was nothing difficult about it, however, for being only slightly under 99°, this had my hard palate tingling.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This is one unusual whiskey, and if you've followed me for any length of time, you know that's an attention-getter for me. I don't know that I'd purposefully seek out a hickory-smoked whiskey, it is far, far different from something that's peated. But, to be fair, prior to this, I've never even heard of a hickory-smoked whiskey. While drinking this, I felt like I was out with friends, hanging by the fire ring, munching on smoked brisket while sipping whiskey. Yeah, it was a good time despite the fact I was only drinking with my dog. This experience is worth a $45 admission fee, and I'm slapping a Bottle rating on it. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.