To my knowledge, this is the original release of Balcones Texas Rum, although there were several variants entered into competitions prior to this release. It was bottled on September 27, 2013 at 58.5% ABV; however, my bottle also bears a gold label declaring this a Commemorative Bottling available at the distillery on December 7, 2013. In any case, I purchased this almost a year later at True Spirits in Plano, TX and it bears the signature of the former Head Distiller, Chip Tate. As you can see from the picture, later batches were bottled at a significantly higher ABV.
The nose is fairly hot, but not overly so, with molasses, caramel, straw, tobacco, rotten banana peel and vanilla. After a while, a light dusting of cocoa develops and a distinctly reedy aroma (yes, like cane juice rum). A bit of water tends to bring the straw forward, subduing the fruits and vanilla, while leaving the molasses and tobacco in place. I think it’s a nice improvement in balance, but it was good before as well.
The taste is different and much bolder than the aroma with an opening of cocoa, prune, straw and overripe orchard fruit before giving way to a spicy transition of tannic white pepper layered over the previous fading flavors. The finish is leathery and spicy with lingering cocoa-laced molasses and it lasts a long time. Water tames the initial flavors as well as the spiciness so that the transition is less pronounced and the experience is more of a slow morphing of flavors with the same descriptions as before. The finish becomes less leathery with a bit more extension than before and the cocoa-laced molasses becomes nice and spicy. All of this takes nothing away from the excellent mouthfeel, which remains plenty oily.
When I first opened this bottle, I judged it to be the worst offering I’d tasted from Balcones (and I’ve tasted just about everything and several different batches of each), but I’ve completely changed my mind as the rum has oxidized in the bottle over more than 2 years. It’s improved over time to the point that I’m sorry to see it go. This is a unique rum that seems to defy the traditional Caribbean styles, but I would venture to say that it most closely resembles a Cuban-style rum. It lacks the esters of a Jamaican, the rich sweetness of Demerara and is much bolder than any Bajan that I’ve had, but it has a nice melding of overripe orchard fruit and spice that I would attribute to a good Cuban rum. I guess I’ve convinced myself that it may not defy these styles after all. 😉
I’m told that subsequent batches have seen more barrel time and have improved significantly, so I may have to explore a more recent batch and I’m genuinely surprised that I’m thinking this way. It looks like Texas does produce some good rum after all, but I’ll warn you that this is not for the typical Bacardi drinker. If you like Matusalem Gran Reserva 15 or 18 with a bit more boldness and less sweetness or if you like Westerhall Plantation with more boldness and less reediness, then you should give Balcones Texas Rum a try. I warn you not to judge it on the first pour, but rather to be patient (possibly for months) while the flavors improve to offer you the full experience.