...where distraction is the main attraction.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Not Technically Whisky Report: Balcones Rumble, batch R12-3

All of the recent discussion about NDPs (non-distiller producers, companies that buy barrels from a distiller then sell the whiskey via their own brand) has spilled out from whiskey geek circles to The Daily Beast and NPR.  While I fully support all efforts to get the TTB to do its job better and help us see more disclosure and honesty on labels, I also want to make sure that the distillers who are actually distilling get some notice on my site.  I'm going to try to sprinkle a few reviews of these around.  Two this week, two next week, and two or four next month.  BUT, I cannot promise the results will be pretty.  Just because someone distills their own stuff, doesn't mean it's automatically awesome.

First up: Chip Tate's Balcones, run out of Waco, Texas.  For a whole bunch of info on Chip & Co, please see this post by The Coopered Tot.  Balcones has a number of products on the market.  There's a Texas Single Malt, which I like.  There's Brimstone, beloved by MAO.  They have the True Blue and Baby Blue corn whiskies.  And then there are the Rumbles.  Today I'll be reviewing Balcones Rumble, batch R12-3.

Sample courtesy of Whisky Joe, via a sample swap.  Thanks, Whisky Joe!
Rumble isn't actually a whisky.  It's a liquor (or liqueur?) distilled from Texas wildflower honey, mission figs, and turbinado sugar, then aged in "small oak barrels".  It sounds quirky, let's see if it works for me.

Distillery: Balcones
Region: Waco, TX, USA
Type: Not Whisky
Batch: R12-3
Age: ???
Distilled from: Texas wildflower honey, mission figs, and turbinado sugar
Maturation: "small oak barrels"
Alcohol by volume: 47%

The color is light gold.  The nose holds a lot of slivovitz (Eastern European damson plum brandy) and honey cake.  Then some roast pork, rose buds, and Milk Dud caramel.  With some air, the nose develops fruit cake and vanilla bean notes.  The palate is immediately more pleasant and less sugary than expected, and the texture is quite thick.  There are bold honey notes and lots of spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, and red peppercorns).  Subtler notes of honey butter and a cross between Sprite and tonic water.  With air, the palate shows some of the slivovitz and toasty oak.  Some molassy rum arrives in the finish, along with vanilla, honey, caramel, and some dry tannins.

The nose gets saltier and rummier.  Honey and orange peel.  Much less eau-de-vie.  The palate mellows out.  Soft bitterness and soft vanilla.  Slivovitz and fresh figs.  A little peppery.  The texture gets outrageously creamy.  The finish gets more of a bitter bite.  Then in comes the figs and plum brandy.

This was much better than I expected.  I'd anticipated a mess of aggressive sweetness matched with too much fresh oak.  But the fig brandy element pulls the Rumble away from getting too rummy.  The oak is present, and gives it sort of a whiskey feel, but the tannins and pulp are much less pushy than that of many rejuvenated-cask-matured single malts.

I don't think this will blow away a single malt-only fan, but I know I liked it A LOT more than the extra sweet cheap rums on liquor store shelves.  The Rumble might also be an alternative of interest for rum fans.  In any case, I strongly recommend you find a way to try this before buying it.  The price is on the steep side, considering that it's for a very young spirit.  The one positive spin I can put on the cost is that it supports a small business, a company that has probably 1/10000th the capital of Diageo.

Availability - Most specialty retailers
Pricing - $50-$60
Rating - 83


  1. I find that some of the notes in the Cask Strength verison of Rumble reminds me a bit of Aberlour A'Bunadh Batch #45. Then again, I am a scotch novice.

    1. You're on to something there. Sometimes I get fig and date notes in ultra-sherried whiskies, sometimes even some sugary brandy notes too. I'm hoping to get a review of the Rumble Reserve in very soon...

    2. I am crazy, so maybe I'm not the best judge in this category. :)

  2. It's been six months or so since I tried the regular Rumble but I recall a whisper of Armagnac- so the brandy comparison makes sense to me.

    1. It's the brandy part that I like the best, as it sort of swings it away from rum into another quirkier category.