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Most Recent Review

Most Recent Whisky Review

Maker's Mark Cask Strength

This new expression is supposedly only available at the distillery, but at time of writing in October 2014 it is also available at #houstonsbestbar Reserve 101 and Spec's liquor in downtown Houston.  Unexpected ubiquity aside, as a confirmed “Markersmarkophile” I was very excited to try this. The nose has lots of sweet bubblegum and sawdust, and surprisingly none of the alcohol burn you might expect to find a cask strength expression. Simply put the nose is all that is good and holy about bourbon. The taste is deep, rich and dry, oaky and sweet with coffee, cinnamon and banana bread. Makers Mark on steroids.   The finish is very dry and spicy.   With water it gets sweeter and creamier, a vanilla cake with some spice.   Worth the trip to Kentucky (or apparently downtown Houston) to get some.

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  • Friday, 05 September 2014 20:35

    In this entry I am going to try and consolidate the opinion I have shared on various other web pages, Twitter and Facebook into a single, possibly coherent, position. I am very conscious of the fact that “both sides of the story” have not yet come out and I may yet be proved to be more inaccurate than Matt Schaub throwing a pass.  However I am more interested in the core of this issue than the “he said / she said” of recent events that is no doubt going to be focus of most of the coverage. I am also conscious that I may be expelled from the virtual whisky community (#whiskyfabric) for heresy but if that is the case I was already out of step and all I am doing is stating how I feel and it will be cleansing to do so.

    Balcones was started by Chip Tate in Waco, Texas and he produced some rather interesting, sometimes great, often weird and occasionally (in my opinion) average whisky. I think even he would admit to some inconsistency especially early on. However the whisky media and bloggers went “super ape shit crazy” (technical term) for his stuff, some with good reason and some for reasons I can’t begin to fathom. Chip went “global”. He became a Whisky Kardashian (without the sex tape – thank god – and an appalling mother figure trying to live vicariously through her daughters success).  A whisky superstar was born and I honestly saw more of Chip Tate at events like WhiskyLive London than I did at local events in Texas. Clearly he was “going to need a bigger boat” to secure Balcones place at the whisky’s top table and plans were announced to expand. And that is where this story goes to its darker second act. I have even suggested that media and bloggers who stoked the fires have some accountability for this.

    Of course Chip needs money to expand and along come the investors (or the “suits” as they have been referred to). Chip asked them in. He wanted their money. He sold a majority share of the company to them. What bastards! How dare they try to run the company they bought the majority of! If you want to stay in control of your business, the best advice I can give is don’t sell it. Just because you started a business it doesn’t give you lifetime ownership of that business. If that means that expansion is not in your immediate future then accept that and stay in control. Perhaps he was badly advised, perhaps even mislead by investors or others, but when you sell something you lose control of it. That is the moral of this story. Chip apparently chose expansion over control. 

    At end of the day I hope this situation is resolved, and the third act is happy, feel good ending. Perhaps they reconcile and go onto to great things, maybe Chip starts again and stays small (and in control) if that is what he wants. Personally I hope Chip and his investors are reunited and Chip goes onto to make lots more Balcones Single Malt, perhaps a follow up to the stunning Vth Bourbon and, if I had my way, a lot less Brimstone and Rumble.

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