American Single Malts: Balcones Texas Single Malt & Stranahan's Colorado Single Malt Whiskey


In terms of whiskey, single malt is not usually associated with the good old U.S. of A. Rather it's bourbon and rye that nearly instantly spring to mind when you mention American whiskey. However the single malt range is broadening Stateside. Westland are probably one of the brands most synonymous with leading the malt charge. Now even the big boys such as Jack Daniels and Woodford Reserve are getting in on the act. 

It's definitely a style of whiskey in America that piques my interest just to see how similar, or how different, it is to what we know of as single malts from here in Ireland, Scotland and of course the young upstarts in England.

So to get a little taster of all things Murican Malt I'm looking at two brands - Balcones and Stranahan's.

Founded in Waco, Texas in 2008 Balcones have quite the core range going on producing Blue Corn whiskey as well as a smoked version called the Brimstone, a bottled in bond Rye, a straight Bourbon and what we are reviewing today, the Texas 1 Single Malt.

Demand for Balcones products grew rapidly and by 2014 another four stills were installed in the original distillery. 2016 marked another leap in output as distillation began in their new distillery located 5 blocks from the original location. This has two pairs of stills, five fermenters and a capacity of around 350,000 lpa. 

Possibly not so great for the future of Balcones is that they were acquired by Diageo in 2022. I wonder what price rises we have in store? On the up side Balcones helped set up the American Single Malt Whiskey Commission in 2016 along with 8 other distilleries including FEW Spirits and Westland Distillery to help define the rules of the category.

The Texas 1 single malt was launched in 2011 using Texas grown Golden Promise malted barley. Mashing, fermentation, distillation and  maturation is done onsite. They use a combination of American, French and Hungarian oak barrels that are a mix of new and refill. Maturation is between 22 and 24 months. The whiskey is bottled at 53% abv, is natural colour and non chill filtered. This bottle cost £62 from Master of Malt.

Stranahan's Distillery is located in downtown Denver, Colorado. Originally setup in 2004 by neighbours Jess Graber and George Stranahan, the distillery is Colorado's first legal distillery since Prohibition. 2006 saw their first 'Original' release.

2010 saw the distillery fall into the hands of Proximo - yes those same people responsible for Proper Twelve. 

The core range is made up of the Original, a small batch whiskey matured in #3 char new American oak barrels that is made up of 4 to 7 year old whiskies and bottled at 47% abv. The Blue Peak that is 4 years old from #3 char barrels given a solera style finish and bottled at 43% abv. The Sherry Finish is 4 year old double distilled malt that is then transferred to a combination of PX and Oloroso sherry casks for an undefined finishing period and then bottled at 45% abv.

Next up is Diamond Peak that spends 6 to 9 years in new American oak casks before finishing in Caribbean Rum casks and bottled at 45% abv. This is an annual limited release, as is the 10 year old Mountain Angel which is bottled at 45.1% abv.

All are non chill filtered and seemingly natural colour too.

My bottle was a barrel pick for Liquor Outlet Wine Cellars in Boonton, New Jersey and was a gift from a good friend, Evan Pearson. 

Balcones Texas Single Malt 53% abv

Nose: Intense and malty. Savoury with a slight meaty and very herbal edge, think sage and pine resin. Dark brown sugar, raisins, ripe bananas and new oak. Root beer and coffee grounds too.

Palate: Pretty robust and spicy on arrival with a lovely oily mouthfeel. Quite fruity with toffee apples and peach. Lots of brown sugar again with new leather, molasses, dates and cocoa. Not as much oakiness as the nose suggested. There is some peppery heat and clove oil too.

Finish: Short with toasted hazelnuts, caramel and baking spice mix.

Score: 6 out of 10 

Stranahan's Colorado Single Malt Whiskey 47% abv

Nose: A sweet, woody nose - maple syrup, ripe apples, sweet malt loaf. Orange marmalade and oak shavings. Cinnamon, light clove and even a little apple cider vinegar.

Palate: The mouthfeel is a little thin. Sweet toffee apples, honey, biscuity malt with stem ginger and clove. Candied peels and a surprisingly light oakiness. Some leather towards the end.

Finish: Quite short with a more bitter citrus pith note alongside the toffee sweetness and warming spice of clove and toasted oak.

Score: 5 out of 10


An interesting foray into the world of American malts. The Balcones was a veritable oak monster on the nose but thankfully the oak is tamed on the palate. Certainly not a single malt as we'd know it here across the pond, this is brash and unapologetic, but there are plenty of older Irish and Scotch malts that don't present themselves as well as this. It's definitely got me interested in exploring some more of the Balcones range.

The Stranahan's was an easy, uncomplicated drinker. It didn't particularly bring anything new to the table but I think it's reasonably affordable over in the U.S. and so is a decent enough option if you need a change from borebon, I mean bourbon.

If you’d like to support my humble site there’s a ‘buy me a coffee’ link on the homepage menu bar. Thanks for reading!


Popular Posts