Balcones is at the forefront of the American single malt whisky movement. Their Texas single malts continue to wow whisky drinkers, win awards, and push the envelope on what American single malt whisky can be.
Their latest release, Pilgrimage Texas Single Malt Whisky, is the first in a new series of whiskies from the Waco, Texas craft distiller. Their aim with this new series is to explore a “dynamic flavor experience” with a unique finishing for each expression released going forward.
Overall, this sounds very exciting, so we’re tasting the very first drop in the new Pilgrimage line below. Let’s get into what’s in the bottle!
Balcones Pilgrimage Texas Single Malt Whisky
Average Price: $76
This single malt starts with Golden Promise malted barley in the mash with proprietary ale yeast and local Texas water. The distilled juice is then loaded into used barrels like all of the world’s great single malts. After a few years of aging under the hot Texas sun, the whisky is transferred into French Sauternes casks, bringing a distinct dessert wine vibe to the juice. Finally, the whisky is bottled at cask strength from very small, one-off batches.
The nose is all sweet honey, soft white grapes, stewed peaches in syrup, light leather, ripe pear, and a touch of salted caramel candy. There’s also this fleeting moment of milk chocolate. It really draws you in.
The taste starts off a bit slow with an initial moment of sweet grains that translate to very clear pear notes by the mid-palate before ascending towards honeyed malts, Caro syrup roasted pecans, apple blossoms, and a small dusting of egg nog spices. All of that sweetness and fruitiness completely hides the ABVs under a wall of lusciousness.
The end does have a spicy edge but it’s still tied to the sweet honey and orchard fruits and leaves you with this sense of a refined apple soda and more milk chocolate at the very end.
Balcones puts all of their expressions in an old-school port bottle and it works. These bottles always stand out on a bar cart or whiskey bar shelf thanks to the stout size. The label on this one pops as well, albeit with a hard-to-see, gold-embossed logo of a barrel in the background.
This opens very close to one of my favorite single malts from last year, Aberfeldy 20, which was also finished in Sauternes casks. Overall, this is a winner, especially for lovers of sweet single malts. It’s complex, super easy to drink, accessible, and unique.
The overall finish is very warming as well. You’re left with a soft fruit and honey sweetness with zero burn or alcohol astringency. It’s just … nice.
92/100 — This is a masterful dram of whisky. Still, it’s not a 20-year-old from Speyside but that’s okay. This is a great bottle to introduce someone to both Sauternes finishes and Texas single malt in general.