Visit to the Balcones Distillery in Waco, TX

September 8, 2011 § 6 Comments

Despite my late arrival into Austin the night before, I woke up extra early last Thursday because after much (and I think very patient waiting) I was going to see the Balcones distillery in person (see my previous post on Balcones HERE).

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting other distilleries before but none home to the unique, super-secret process of smoking the actual whisky not the grains technique that head distiller, Chip Tate, created and successfully applies to his wildly popular Brimstone whisky.  (Check out the products rave review by Tasting Table Top Shelf HERE)

During my visit, the Balcones’ crew were in the process of bottling & shipping out their extremely limited 1st released Single Malt which I was honored to taste & try the barrels samples of for version 2.0. (BOTH are Ahh-mazing.)  Get it while you can.  This is something you definitely want in your whisky collection!

What’s great about visiting these craft distilleries is that you are up-close and personal with the whole operation.  I got to meet everyone and of course, got in their way as soon as I went camera-happy (sorry!).

All in all – we had a great time (thank you, Chip!) and can’t wait to go back next year to see how they are progressing with the new space!

Click on the logo to be taken to Balcones' website

Check out the photos of my visit below!

Yuuuummmm fermenting corn mash

Time for distillation! Chip Tate welded all of the copper himself!

Coordinating all of the different valves and moving parts requires some very intricate choreography!

Aging time! Hey... where did they all go? Looks like someone just bottled the Single Malt!

The envious Tasting Room ... this is where the magic happens!

Once the casks have been selected - the bottling begins (and let me tell you, these guys also know how to build an awesome play list - great whisky, great tunes, great people, I want to go back!)

Time for the hand-applied labels & wax seals!

All boxed up and ready to go! Bye-bye Baby Blue!

But wait … the fun isen’t over yet!  Chip took us on a side trip to visit the new space they will be expanding into.  Along the way, yours truly got a lesson in barrel rolling! 😀

First, watch the pro's ... see how Chip aligns the barrels perfectly???

Go Whisky Woman, Go! (mine looks way less controlled than Chip's ... perhaps I need more practice? ...or just something to drink!? Btw, this is REALLY FUN!)

Quick lesson on exactly what is in these barrels & what wood is used to make up these barrels before we start crackin' these babies open!

The moment of truth. Shhhh, Chip is extracting the beautiful nectar! ... and yes, it really is beautiful! I'll let him tell you about these creative, made-just-for-Balcones barrels when he's ready. All I can say now is that I left a happy girl.

Ok – you all really have to try his products.  The reason I have become so nuts for them is the layers and layers of complex scentes and flavors.  He is not just making “another whisky” here – he executes everything with such passion, precision and curiosity that he is pushing the boundaries of tradition while still remaining true to his roots.  We should all be greatful.  To me, this is what is so exciting about the craft whisky movement here in America.

Take advantage now.

Paris: La Maison du Whisky (part 1)

July 21, 2011 § 1 Comment

Need I say more?!?

This is the mecca of all things great.  It’s where Parisians and Whisk(e)y come together under one (ok, 2) roofs.  La Maison du Whisky (LMDW) is legendary.  They have one of the best collections of whiskies from all around the world, including a back room with extremely rare and few-of-a-kind bottles at their store on 20 rue d’Anjou.  If you’re in Paris, you must plan to spend time in both of their stores.

La Maison du Whisky (original shop)

The original La Maison du Whisky boutique is situated in the 8th arrondissment at 20 Rue d’Anjou.  Located in one of the chicest neighborhoods in Paris, this sexy shop is on the ground floor and so beautifully designed you’re going to want to move in (and that’s not just the whisky talking!).  It’s elegant and soft minimalistic design in grays and browns are the perfect backdrop for showcasing their collection.   Further more, I can’t help but mention the wonderful people who work there.  They were happy to answer any question and help in any way (and most speak English fluently).

*A bit of a warning, what we thought would be an easy find turned into a bit of a “tourist in headlights” moment.   It is Paris, after all, and all of the street curve, turn, end and turn into something else, or don’t intersect where you think they might.  Long story short, bring a detailed map.

LMDW Fine Spirits (2nd shop)

Their second store in Paris, appropriately names LMDW Fine Spirits, is located in the über cool 6th arr. in the neighborhood of Odéon.  Located at 6 Carrefour de l’Odéon, this recently opened 3 story beauty is well worth the visit.  Very different from it’s sister store, LMDW features a wide variety of all spirits, not just whiskies.  The main floor features a large, rotating themed collection that is framed perfectly in their massive windows (during my visit, it happened to be Whiskies of the World – woohoo!).  The basement level is where the buyers really flex their muscles and stock some of the coolest and most unique spirits I’ve ever seen.  The 2nd floor, however, is where the magic happens.  This level is set up like a bar (in fact, I was ready to pull up a stool!).  It’s part concept store and part functioning bar, used only for tastings and special events.  Otherwise, as was described to me by their manager, it’s the best setting to get yourself in the mood to purchase their beautiful edited selection of bar accoutrements!  Cocktail shakers, anyone?  (You may not need one but in that setting, you certainly believe that theirs has magical powers to turn you into the best at-home bar tender the world has ever seen!)

By the way, if you’re in Singapore … I here the LMDW store there is pretty amazing too!

LINKS to their e-commerce sites: La Maison du Whisky and LMDW Fine Spirits

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