Balcones Brimstone Texas Scrub Oak Smoked Corn Whisky (700ml)
Texas campfire in a bottle!
Many years have passed since this American craft classic was last in the country: A 100% Hopi blue corn whiskey made from mash-to-bottle at the Balcones, but instead of using Scottish peat smoke, it's wood-smoked. Sun-baked Texas scrub oak is employed in a proprietory process resulting in a flavour bomb full of fresh, youthful corn and light fruit notes married with campfire phenols. Jim Murray described it as "Ultimate surfing for the peat head". Our tasting in 2013 found opening whiffs of rubber and vinyl but with substance to keep you sniffing as the industrial edge retreats. Give this several minutes at least to reveal the second stage that turns unripe corn-like, followed by evocations of damp camp fire, smoked meats and hints of maple syrup. Immediately reminiscent of class mezcal on delivery with its exotic combination of pepper, grilled corn, lanolin, vinyl, vanilla and impressive balance, the final stages are dry, mezcal-like with the smokey corn and charcoal making a definitive return followed by a lingering roasted chestnut and vinyl fade. Yes, it's a strange one, but we love this utterly unfettered craft distilling classic where Oaxaca meets Islay with Kentucky somewhere in between. 3% Alc./Vol.
Other reviews... Distilled from roasted blue corn. The spirit itself, not the grain, is smoked over Texas scrub oak. Spicy Red Vines, herbal notes, and blackened corn aromas. An initial burst of fire on the palate transforms into juicy red fruit, sweet cinnamon apple, and hints of bramble and forest floor. An unusual and polarizing whiskey, Brimstone is aggressive at first, but in the end it’s a gentle giant. 88 points - whiskyadvocate.com, reviewed by: Adam Polonski (Fall 2018)
"The aroma is full of grilled peaches with a brown sugar, chipotle glaze. The palate continues with strong smoke, bacon and more spice. The long finish is salty and full of pipe smoke." 90 points - distiller.com
... implies something heavily smoky, the nose is surprisingly restrained, with modest smoke notes complementing notes of dried fruit and apple cider. It’s engagingly complex, but the palate is something quite different. An initial rush of sweetness quickly gives way to an utter smoke bomb — think a campfire full of smoldering cedar trees — with a pungent, ashy finish. A far different experience than a sultry Islay, Brimstone ends up brash and in your face, like a blast of cigar smoke blown in your direction. An extremely divisive whisky, your enjoyment of it is entirely dependent on your position in regards to licking ashtrays. (2017 review) - drinkhacker.com
93 points - Jim Murray's Whisky Bible 2020
...Strange name, Brimstone, isn’t it another name for sulphur? This is blue maize whisky that’s been smoked afterwards, meaning that it’s the distillate that was smoked using oak, not the maize. It’s very young but was fully matured under Texas’ very hot and dry climate. Colour: reddish amber. Nose: it’s not quite whisky at first nosing, rather a kind of strong liqueur, very tarry, such as the famous Finnish tar liqueur (Tervasnapsi). There’s also a lot of roasted bacon and some very distinct notes of hot wood (just sawn using a very fast power saw). In short, BBQ! Also more and more smoked tea, yes, a full tanker of laspang souchong. I must say I enjoy this nose, not only because it’s so unlikely. With water: more exhaust gas (from a ’70 shovelhead, hum-hum). Mouth (neat): again, it’s very unlikely but it’s really fun and very pleasant if you like liquorice. Because it’s extremely liquoricy, you may eat three bags of liquorice allsorts and you wont even come close to this. Touches of Cynar or Fernet Branca. Thick mouth feel. With water: some notes of rum develop, molasses, reduced corn syrup… and always a lot of liquorice. Finish: long, spicier. Sweet curry, red Thai sauce, cloves, aniseed, wood smoke… Comments: it’s very experimental but it’s balanced, which is all that counts. I especially like the fact that it doesn’t seem that it’s the wood as such that does all the talking. Well done, this is really fun! 85 points - whiskyfun.com