Leave the peat to murky Scottish bogs.
For an American whiskey with all the heft and smoke of a single-malt, look no further than Balcones Brimstone.
This unruly specimen is the latest from Texas distiller Chip Tate, who originally caught our attention a few years back with Balcones True Blue, a cask-strength pour made from 100 percent blue corn, sourced from a tribe of Hopi farmers in New Mexico.
Now, capturing the campfire zeitgeist of the state's cowboy culture, Tate has developed a proprietary--and secret--process to smoke the whiskey after it is distilled. To imbue the whiskey with a singular aroma and flavor, Tate uses sun-dried scrub oak, a plant ubiquitous in the area.
Think of Brimstone as liquid barbecue: It sips like the first bite of a just-grilled ear of summer corn. But it stops short of bourbon's sugary oversteps, instead held in balance by the charred backbone of smoke and a touch of salt.
As befits its birthplace, the whiskey sings harmoniously when served neat with a plate of barbecue. For those seeking a cocktail, the Brimstone makes an interesting variation when replacing Scotch or mezcal (try it in a Blood and Sand), but its pronounced flavor can be tricky to balance. Instead, try the True Blue when breaking out the Boston shaker: Adam Bryan, bar manager of Bar Congress in Austin, uses it as the base of his drink, Fightin' Words (see the recipe).
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