Balcones Distillery

  • USA, Texas
  • Gold at both the Whiskies of the World 2023 and New Orleans Spirits Competition 2023, Best Craft Distiller Whisky at the 2018 San Francisco World Spirits CompetitionDouble Gold at the New Orleans Spirits Competition 2023,
Phone Number
  • +12547556003
  • 225 S 11th St, Waco, TX 76701, United States

Balcones Distillery brick building with tower and blue sky

History of Balcones Distillery

Origins and Foundation
Balcones Distilling was founded in 2008 in Waco, Texas, by a group of friends led by Chip Tate, who was inspired by traditional Scottish distilling methods. The distillery was established with the aim of creating exceptional whiskey, utilizing local ingredients to add a unique character to their spirits. It is named after the Balcones Fault Line, a significant geological formation in Texas, which reflects the brand’s deep roots in local heritage​​.

Initial Development
The early stages involved transforming an old welding shop under a bridge in Waco into a fully operational distillery. This process included extensive renovations such as replacing roofing, knocking out walls, laying bricks, cutting pipes, and installing copper pot stills imported from Portugal. The team’s hard work culminated in the beginning of distillation in 2009, marking the start of Balcones’ journey in whiskey making​​.

Philosophies and Techniques

Commitment to Ingredients
From the outset, Balcones has placed a significant emphasis on the quality and source of their ingredients, understanding that they are crucial to the flavor of the whiskey. The distillery sources blue corn from New Mexico and was the first to use Texas-grown malted barley, ensuring that each spirit is a true expression of its raw materials​​.

Innovation in Production
Balcones is known for its innovative approach to fermentation and distillation. By leveraging the team’s brewing background, they have refined their processes to enhance the flavor profiles of their whiskey. This includes using copper pot stills designed by Forsyths of Scotland to ensure the richness of the spirit, and adopting unique aging techniques to complement the dynamic Texas climate​​.

Challenges and Evolution

Leadership Changes and Growth
The distillery faced significant challenges in 2014 when Chip Tate, the founding head distiller, left the company amid legal disputes. Under new leadership with head distiller Jared Himstedt, Balcones continued to innovate and expand its product range, including the introduction of smoked and blue corn bourbons​​.

Expansion and Modernization
In 2019, Balcones opened a new state-of-the-art facility in Waco, featuring a tasting room and event space. This development signified a new era for the distillery, allowing for increased production capacity and providing a venue for visitors to experience the distilling process and sample products​​.

Current Status and Offerings

Product Range and Recognition
Today, Balcones Distilling offers a wide range of whiskies that have garnered international acclaim. The distillery’s portfolio includes innovations like the Texas Single Malt, Brimstone (a smoked corn whiskey), and True Blue (a blue corn bourbon), each showcasing Balcones’ dedication to craftsmanship and creativity​​​​.

Craftsmanship and Community
Balcones remains committed to producing high-quality, craft spirits that reflect the unique terroir of Texas. The distillery’s approach to blending, proofing, and filtering ensures that each bottle of whiskey is of the highest standard, offering a distinct and authentic taste of Texas to whiskey enthusiasts around the world​​.

In summary, Balcones Distilling’s history is marked by a blend of tradition and innovation, a dedication to quality, and a deep connection to the local Texas landscape. From its humble beginnings in a converted welding shop to becoming a prominent name in the whiskey industry, Balcones Distilling continues to push the boundaries of whiskey production, crafting spirits that are truly original and authentic.

Awards Won by Balcones Distillery

  • Lineage Texas Single Malt Whisky has won multiple awards, including Gold at both the Whiskies of the World 2023 and New Orleans Spirits Competition 2023, 93 Points at the Ultimate Spirits Challenge 2022, and Double Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in both 2021 and 2022​​.
  • Texas 1 Single Malt Whisky received prestigious recognitions such as Best in Class and Double Gold at Whiskies of the World 2023, Double Gold at the New Orleans Spirits Competition 2023, where it was also named Best Single Malt and Whisky of the Year, along with 93 Points at the Ultimate Spirits Challenge 2023​​.
  • Baby Blue Straight Corn Whisky was awarded 92 Points at the Ultimate Spirits Challenge in both 2020 and 2023​​.
  • Rye Bottled in Bond achieved Double Gold at the Whiskies of the World 2023​​.
  • Texas Pot Still Bourbon earned 90 Points in 2020​​.
  • The distillery’s flagship, Balcones ‘1’ Texas Single Malt, was named Best Craft Distiller Whisky at the 2018 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, where it also earned Double Gold. Other products such as Texas Blue Corn Bourbon and Texas Rye Cask Strength won Gold Medals​​.

Balcones Distillery Tour Information and Experience

Balcones Distillery provides a comprehensive tour that walks guests through their entire distillation process, starting from the grain silos to the final sampling of their whiskies. This tour is a fantastic opportunity to learn what makes Balcones unique, offering insights into the craft and dedication behind their spirits. The tours are highly popular and spots fill up quickly, indicating the need to book in advance to secure a place.

Key Points

  • Age Restrictions: The tours are adult-oriented; infants or children cannot be accommodated. Guests must be at least 19 years old to join a tour and 21 years old to taste the spirits.
  • Tour Schedule: Tours are available on Thursdays at 4:30 PM and 6 PM, Fridays at 2 PM, 3 PM, 4:30 PM, and 6 PM, and Saturdays at 12:30 PM, 2 PM, 3:30 PM, 4:30 PM, and 6 PM.
  • Refund Policy: Tour and tasting bookings can be refunded up to 2 days before the confirmed tour date for a full refund. No refunds are offered after this period.

VIP Tours

Currently, VIP tours are not available. However, the distillery plans to update their offerings and notify potential visitors when these exclusive tours become available again.

Gifting a Tour

For those looking to share the Balcones Distillery experience with friends, family, or colleagues, gift cards for tours are available. These gift cards can be used towards purchasing a tour, offering a thoughtful and unique gift option for whisky enthusiasts.

Tasting Room and Gift Shop

In addition to tours, Balcones Distillery features a Tasting Room and a Gift Shop at their visitor center located at 225 S. 11th St., Waco, TX 76701. The Bottle Shop hours vary across the week, with Mondays dedicated to bottle sales only and the rest of the week (Tuesday to Saturday) open from 12 PM to 9 PM.

The distillery ensures accessibility with clearly marked disabled parking spots, wheelchair ramps, and ADA accessible tables and bars. Their gift shop offers a wide range of Balcones merchandise, including apparel, glassware, and all currently available whiskies, with a restriction of two 750ml bottles per person every 30 days.

The Balcones Distillery tour experience is tailored for adults interested in the intricate process of whisky making. With a focus on craftsmanship and quality, the tours offer an in-depth look into the distillation process, complemented by the opportunity to taste their award-winning spirits. Planning and booking in advance are essential to enjoy this immersive experience in Waco, Texas.

Flask & Barrel Review of Balcones Distillery

Having visited a fair share of distilleries in my quest for unique and quality whiskies, my experience at Balcones Distillery stands out, meriting a solid 4.7 out of 5 in my book. Nestled in the heart of Waco, Texas, Balcones isn’t just another stop on the whiskey trail; it’s a revelation in the craft distilling world.

From the get-go, the vibe at Balcones was welcoming and down-to-earth, making it clear that they’re proud of their Texas roots and eager to share their craft with visitors. The tour itself was a standout, offering an in-depth look at their grain-to-glass process, which, for a whiskey collector like me, was both educational and fascinating. It’s one thing to taste a fine whiskey, but seeing the care and innovation that goes into every batch at Balcones adds layers to the appreciation.

The tasting session that followed was, without a doubt, the highlight. Each sample, from their flagship Texas Single Malt to the unique smoky notes of the Brimstone, was a testament to Balcones’ commitment to quality and innovation. The staff’s knowledge and passion were evident, making the experience not just a tasting but a deep dive into the flavors and stories behind each bottle.

If I had to pinpoint a downside, it’d probably be the sheer popularity of the place. The crowd can detract from the intimacy of the experience, but honestly, it’s a small price to pay for the quality and enjoyment provided.

What To Do Nearby Balcones Distillery

Branch Davidian Memorial Park (Distance varies): Visit this site to learn about the tragic 1993 siege. The memorial park commemorates the 80 individuals who lost their lives during the event​​.

Cameron Park (Approximately 2 miles): This 416-acre city park offers stunning nature views, hiking, mountain biking, picnicking, and bird watching. Overlooking the Brazos and Bosque rivers, it’s also home to the Cameron Park Zoo​​.

Waco Suspension Bridge (Approximately 0.5 miles): An iconic structure built in 1870, now a pedestrian bridge offering panoramic views of Waco. The surrounding areas, Indian Spring Park and Martin Luther King Jr. Park, are great for leisurely walks​​.

Magnolia Market at the Silos (Approximately 0.6 miles): A must-visit for fans of Chip and Joanna Gaines from HGTV’s “Fixer Upper”. This market complex features home decor shops, food trucks, and a bakery​​.

Dr. Pepper Museum (Approximately 0.5 miles): Learn about the history of one of America’s favorite soft drinks in the very city where it was invented. The museum offers interactive exhibits and a vintage soda fountain​​.

Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum (Approximately 2 miles): Dive into the history of the legendary law enforcement agency. The museum showcases artifacts and stories of the Texas Rangers​​.

Frequently Asked Questions

What restaurants are near Balcones Distillery?

D’s Mediterranean Grill: It has a rating of 4.6 stars on Google Maps. For reservations, you can reach out to them on their phone at (254) 754-6709. Their address is 1503 Colcord Ave, Waco, TX 76707.

Cajun Craft: It has a rating of 4.6 stars on Google Maps. For reservations, you can reach out to them on their phone at (254) 754-3869. Their address is 601 S 11th St, Waco, TX 76706.

Hawaiian Bros Island Grill: It has a rating of 4.9 stars on Google Maps. For reservations, you can reach out to them on their phone at (254) 294-3911. Their address is 825 S 6th St, Waco, TX 76706.

What hotels are near the Balcones Distillery?

La Quinta Inn and Suites by Wyndham Waco Downtown – Baylor: It has a rating of 4.5 stars on Google Maps. For reservations, you can reach out to them on their phone at (254) 756-2929. Their address is 911 S 10th St, Waco, TX 76706.

Aloft Waco Baylor: It has a rating of 4.3 stars on Google Maps. For reservations, you can reach out to them on their phone at (254) 870-4644. Their address is 900 S 11th St, Waco, TX 76706.

Hilton Waco: It has a rating of 4.3 stars on Google Maps. For reservations, you can reach out to them on their phone at (254) 754-8484. Their address is 113 S University Parks Dr, Waco, TX 76701.