Editor’s note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Balcones. This in no case, by our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the purchase link at the bottom of this review, our site receives a small referral payment which helps support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.

If you cut Alaska in half, Texas would become the third largest state in the union. A good friend of mine, proud Texan and restaurateur, hated that joke in college. I’m sure I told him that fact whenever I could. Texans aren’t fans of being told they’re second at anything and are very proud of everything that happens in their state. The most recent place of pride is the startling revival of whiskey that began in the historic Texas Fireproof Storage building in Waco, home to Balcony Distillation.

Based in 2009, Balcones uses copper stills designed by Forsyth in Scotland and tries to continually reset the bar when it comes to craft distilling in the Lone Star State.

A project that began five years ago, Balcones tries its hand at the ever-popular Bottled-in-Bond varietal. The Bond Bottling Act (or BiB in whiskey parlance) is the first food purity law in the United States. It passed in 1897. During Reconstruction and westward expansion in the post-Civil War era, rules and regulations regarding food and drink did not exist, and many people consumed what was essentially poison they thought was whisky. The Bottled-in-Bond Act was intended to address this issue and build trust between consumers and distilleries in the United States.

The law requires that products bottled in bond must be produced in a single distillery during a single distillation season. Once in cask, the whiskey is aged in secure, government-bound rick houses, where the whiskey is aged under government supervision. The distillery pays a tax while the cask ages for at least four years, and in return the government becomes responsible for the authenticity of this whisky. This helped stabilize the market and reassure consumers that if the bottle had the tax stamp, they knew they were getting real whiskey.

Although no longer a necessity due to FDA and other consumer protection laws, Bottled-in-Bond whiskey is still very popular among consumers. Bottled at 50% ABV, the highest proof allows for more robust flavors and profiles, making them extremely versatile for cocktails or for drinking neat.

Balcones starts with its famous straight blue corn whiskey (they prefer the spelling “whiskey”), then ages it in Mexican Tequila casks for five years before bottling it at the required 100 proof. In a statement prepared, Chief Distiller Jared Himstedt said, “We are extremely proud of our exploration and design of blue corn whisky. Big Baby 2022 represents our own learnings and maturity, and our ability to enjoy whiskey nurtured with patience and restraint.”

Balcones describes the whiskey as equal parts earthy and candy, with “multifaceted mineral” notes and also “Jolly Rancher watermelon.” With that, we turn to glass.

Balcones distills Big Baby Bottled-In-Bond (image via Charles Steele/The Whiskey Wash)

Tasting notes: Balcones Big Baby Bottle in Bond

Vital Stats: Pure corn whiskey aged in Tequila barrels. 100 proofs. MSRP $59.99

Appearance: Rust

Nose: Pear, eucalyptus, grass and the sweetness of agave sugar with the acidity of tequila. There are also floral notes like lavender, complemented by soft leather.

Palace: An excellent transition from nose to palate. It is dry and full without being greasy. Zesty notes of sour tequila are accompanied by agave nectar, turning into honey cornbread. There are notes of old leather and oak in the mid-palate that turn into sweet malty hay at the end. It is warm on the tongue and in the chest without burning, and leaves a lingering sweet flavor of molasses and oak on the tongue.