Rum is usually one of the first things that a distillery makes. Whiskey is a highly competitive market with a high barrier to entry and requires years of preparation and patience. On the other hand, pretty much anyone with a couple bags of sugar can throw together a rum in a few days. The quick turnaround and loose definitions of a rum mean that it’s something distilleries often start with in order to start turning a profit while the whiskey ages. But Balcones is doing it a bit backwards: having perfected their whiskey, they’re just now starting to release a rum.
Prohibition was a huge wet blanket over the craft distilling industry in the US. Not many businesses that pre-date that era have survived beyond it and, as a result, the definition of the “oldest continuously operating” distillery in a given area can be surprisingly young.
Balcones Distilling is a relatively young distillery that claims the title for having the first Texas-produced whiskey on the market since prohibition. Founded in 2008 by a handful of local Texans in Waco, they started production in an old welding shop and spent the next year renovating the space before finally producing alcohol in 2009. Now, the distillery is open to visitors for tastings and tours — which is the only thing that makes my day tolerable when my wife tries to drag me to Waco for everything Chip-and-Joanna related.
There’s surprisingly little information available about what’s in the glass here.
As far as we can tell, this is a molasses-based rum that has been fermented in the usual manner (using local yeast compounds over a longer period of time than usual) before being distilled multiple times in the pot stills at the Balcones Distillery.
Once the new rum has been distilled, it is aged in a series of charred oak barrels for an undisclosed period of time before being blended and bottled.
Balcones has taken a very traditional approach to their bottles. They are using a rather standard round bottle with straight walls, which tapers at the shoulder to a straight neck. The bottle is topped with a cork stopper and a plastic cap that makes the cork easy to grip.
The label itself is a similar aesthetic to their other bottles: a square label smack dab on the front of the bottle, with the branding clear and distinct. With this version, they chose a purple background and a metallic gold ink for the logo — a slight departure from the other labels in their line and a welcome change that makes it stand out a bit more on the shelf.
While I wouldn’t gush about this packaging, I also have nothing to complain about either.
The rum looks as dark and inky as their other spirits, a nice dark brown hue that has almost a reddish rust tinge on it.
Pouring a bit into the glass, the first thing I get from the aroma is raisins, along with some brown sugar sweetness and a touch of vanilla. It’s jammy and fruity — almost like something I’d want to spread on one half of a PB&J. But there’s also a touch of char in there, like a bit of burned brown sugar and some cinnamon spice for good measure.
Taking a sip, there’s one hell of an alcohol bite to get through there — which is probably to be expected from a 63-point-something percent ABV spirit, but is nonetheless a barrier to overcome when enjoying the spirit. Once you get used to it, the flavors that comes through are primarily the barrel aging notes that we can see in some of the other spirits from Balcones: vanilla, caramel, black cherry, and a touch of dark chocolate. There’s also a hint of raisins and fruit mixed in, but it’s too muddled to cleanly identify.
It really just tastes like one of their standard whiskies, but with a slightly sweeter profile.
In its “fresh out of the bottle” form, this rum is a little much in my opinion. A little too aggressive with the flavors and the alcohol content. In cases like this, a little bit of ice is actually a welcome change.
With the initial alcohol bite now conquered, you can start to see the more intricate aspects of this rum. There’s still the vanilla and brown sugar, and the raisins as well, but there are actually more to the flavors than that. It’s like a bit of fruit punch in there — bananas, mangos, and some orange all thrown together that really bring an island feel to the spirit and set it apart from the other offerings in Balcones’ product line.
I couldn’t really see those components without some help toning down the spirit, but now I’ve got some high hopes for the cocktails.
This is an interesting take on the cocktail, and I’m not mad.
Usually, the lime juice is front and center a daquiri flavor profile — but in this case, the raisins from the rum are actually the largest contributor to the flavor profile. They make their entrance first and set the tone, with the lime juice actually doing more to cut through that flavor and balance it out than anything else. Once that small skirmish has been resolved, the brown sugar and vanilla kick in and really make it a party.
Overall, it makes for a fruitier and richer flavor cocktail, closer to a painkiller than anything else.
Fizz (Dark and Stormy)
Full disclosure: the first time I tried this cocktail, I immediately poured it into the sink. I was looking for something a little more “chill” than the fruity and dark flavored experience I found. But having to try it again in this process and think about it critically, I think it’s growing on me a bit.
There’s an interesting balancing act going on between the ginger beer and the fruity jammy flavors here. I think instead of the usual spirit-attempts-to-tone-down-the-ginger-beer story, here it’s a contest where the ginger beer is trying to cut through the jammy flavors of the rum. There’s a richness and a depth that is almost overshadowing the ginger beer, which is what I think I was reacting to the first time. And if you aren’t prepared for it, that can be a bit overwhelming.
In general though, this is definitely interesting and well-balanced. It’s definitely a darker and richer take on the cocktail and a unique flavor profile that you don’t get elsewhere. So, in my book, I’m calling that a win for the rum.
Rum isn’t something you’d normally expect from a Texas distillery, and I think they put their own Texas spin on it. This is a whiskey drinker’s take on a rum, with the charred oak flavoring and the darker color. Bolder, more potent, and a good bit richer than usual… it’s not what I expected but I’m not complaining.
Well, not complaining much.
This is stretching my concepts of what I consider a rum. In some ways, that’s for the better — innovation is the only way to find new and awesome stuff. But this has drifted far enough from the norm that it’s probably more of a niche product. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to someone looking for ‘one standard bottle of rum’ — but I would absolutely recommend it for someone trying to branch out a bit.
|Balcones Texas Rum|
Produced By: BalconesProduction Location: Texas, United States
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 63.9% ABV
Price: $53.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 3/5
Treating a rum like a whiskey, and getting something chocolatey and delicious at the end.