Many associate Waco, Texas with Baylor University and Magnolia Market at the Silos. It is also the home of Balcones Distilling that is making its mark on the whisky revolution happening in the Lone Star State. On October 28th guests came from near and far to celebrate Balcones’ milestone 15-year anniversary and the release of Cataleja Texas Single Malt Whisky. Woman Around Town was there for the weekend to enjoy all the festivities.
You don’t have to be a whisky aficionado to kick back, relax and sip whisky neat, on the rocks, with a splash of soda or in a craft cocktail. People are sometimes intimidated and find whisky unapproachable if they don’t have knowledge or experience with the spirit. Be assured! I am hardly an expert, but truly enjoy whisky and Balcones Distilling is exceptional.
In 2008, Balcones was an idea driven by spirit and passion to create something original and authentic in the heart of Texas. Their first location was an old welding shop under a bridge in Waco. During the next year, the roof was replaced, walls were knocked out, bricks were laid, and pipes were cut as copper pot stills from Portugal were installed. A whisky distillery was born inside the quaint building and the process of distilling began in 2009. Today Balcones Distillery occupies the former Texas Fireproof Storage Co. that is close to downtown Waco. The building, acquired in 2013, was built out in 2014. The attractive industrial style 65,000-foot site houses the distillery along with a tasting room, and event space.
The 15-Year Anniversary celebration kicked off with a special VIP dinner for press and friends on Friday evening. It was a distinctive opportunity to learn about the spirits that Balcones produces and to witness how the Distillery is an integral part of the community. The meal’s delectable menu created by Head Chef Cory McEntyre of the restaurant, Milo, in Waco, highlighted locally sourced ingredients. Dan Phat, head bartender at Balcones prepared craft cocktails to pair with each course blending spirits from the Distillery’s portfolio that included Texas 1 Single Malt and Lineage. To top off the meal, a tasting of Cataleja Texas Single Malt Whisky was led by Balcones’ Head Distiller Jared Himstedt. The whisky was served in stunning pottery vessels created by local artisans, Paul and Ann McCoy of Quarter Rising Studio.
Cataleja Texas Single Malt Whisky is made with with 100 percent Golden Promise Malted Barley. This single malt began its maturation journey in barrels previously used to age Kentucky bourbon, and after three years of the Texas climate’s concentrating effects, was transferred into decommissioned Sherry Solera casks that were meticulously hand-selected from Spanish bodegas. Because the first fill showcased the wonderfully high impact of the 80 plus year old casks, the whisky was transferred back into neutral barrels and then followed with two additional rounds of refill single malts through the decommissioned casks, as they continued to provide sherry alongside the delicate malt character.
During our visit, we had the delightful opportunity to chat with some of the members of the Balcones team that includes the Head Distiller Jared Himstedt; Brand Experience Manager Alex Elrod; Director of Spirits Gabe Richards; and Site Director Thomas Mote. It was immediately obvious that this charming, talented group works together seamlessly and meticulously. They communicate great pride in Balcones’ operation and their spirits.
On Saturday morning, Gabe Richards and Alex Elrod guided members of the press through an in-depth, captivating distillery tour. Richards and Elrod shared their extensive expertise about the processes of sourcing, distilling, and bringing their whiskies to market. And they spoke about the prospects for the bright future of Balcones Distilling. When you are in Waco, you can also schedule to tour the distillery to take an enlightening behind the scenes view.
Saturday’s exciting anniversary event was open to the public and Balcones connection to the community was very evident by the turnout and positive reaction from the guests. Jared Himstedt has commented, “Waco has been instrumental in the birth of Balcones, and a dear partner in our growth and development over the years. Being able to reintroduce Balcones and celebrate 15 years of our whisky journey with Cataleja, surrounded by our community, is an honor and a joy that we don’t take lightly.”
The all day celebration featured live music by Tomar and the FCs; Micah Edwards, and Esther Rose. Local fare was presented by Balcones Brewing, Nickel City, Sendero Provisions Co., Tru Jamaica, and more. We also attended one of the informative whisky panels, “Texas Whisky & Single Malt.” It was a retrospective on 15 years of making Texas Whisky by local pioneers that shared stories, talked history and celebrated the state as a new whisky region. An informative film screening chronicling the Balcones Distilling journey was also available for guests to view.
The Texas whisky revolution is in full swing and Balcones Distilling is a significant part of it all. They are leading the American single malt movement. We suggest our readers explore, experience and enjoy! The Distillery is located at 225 S 11th St, Waco, TX 76701. For more information on the new Cataleja Texas Single Malt, its availability, and the other spirits in the Balcones Distilling portfolio, please visit BalconesDistilling.com.
Photo Credit: Holmes Millet