Interview: Winston Edwards From Balcones Distillery

Balcones is a rapidly growing American distillery based in Waco Texas. Their single malt has earned world wide critical acclaim and they’re also raking in awards for their other whiskies. Balcones has become synonyms with quality American whisky and they’ve recently expanded production to keep up with the insatiable demand. Just five years old, Balcones is arguably the most successful innovative whisky distillery in the US. So when I got the opportunity to do a Q&A with their brand ambassador Winston Edwards I jumped on it. Read on to find out what life is like for Balcones’ brand ambassador and get a sneak peak on their future releases.

Winston EdwardsWhat’s your role with Balcones and what does your day-to-day look like?
Winston: My title is Brand Ambassador, but my duties are a lot broader than the name suggests. As with many small companies, most of us share responsibilities for numerous jobs related to the operations of a successful business. That being said, no two days are alike. Aside from the typical work you’d expect a BA to do, I actively participate in various tasks including blending, bottling, label conception, social media management, and public and press relations. It’s a lot of fun to be a part of the team here, and having a hand in the production gives me a lot to talk about when I’m on the road promoting the brand.

Is it hard to sell Balcones whisky to consumers who are new to the brand?
W: Not usually. I think a lot of consumers are initially attracted by the novelty of some of our products, like a whisky made entirely from heirloom blue corn, or a conundrum spirit like Rumble made from sugar, honey and figs. However, while we use unique ingredients, there is nothing unfamiliar about the flavors of these products and they are received quite well upon tasting, even by people who have very limited experience with spirits and whisky.

Balcones Expressions

What has Balcones accomplished in 2014? What are you proud of this past year?
W: Wow, where to start? Before we even got into summer, the distillery had earned a slew of new awards from various competitions including the San Francisco International Wine & Spirits Competition, Whisky Magazine’s World Whisky Awards, American Craft Spirits Association Awards, Wizards of Whisky, and more. We’re also getting ready to announce a few new awards in the coming weeks that were recently earned by our products.

Balcones DistilleryHow is Balcones keeping up with excess demand? How is the distillery addressing that in the future?
W: At this point demand for our products has reached such a level that we’re lucky if we can fill 10% of the orders we receive. Thankfully our output will grow fairly significantly over the next few years. In January we installed four new hand-built copper pot stills, effectively tripling our distilling capacity, which allows us to lay down more barrels than ever before. Though it still won’t be enough, the availability of our products will improve over the next 6-12 months. The real game changer will be the new distillery we’re building a few blocks away. We’ll be moving from our original 2,400 sq. ft. facility under the bridge to a historic 65,000 sq. ft. building in downtown Waco. New custom copper pot stills are being fabricated in Scotland by Forsyths as I write this and we expect delivery of the first set in the coming months. Additional stills will be installed over the next few years giving us more and more capacity to meet increasing demand.

What can whisky drinkers expect from Balcones in the near future? Any new releases around the corner?
W: Yes, we have some exciting special releases coming out before the end of the year. Our first permanent line extension for Texas Single Malt will be bottled in the next few weeks, a whisky we have dubbed “FR.OAK.” While we have used some exceptional French oak casks as part of the blends in the standard release, FR.OAK has actually spent the majority of its life in French oak. The result is a whisky that bolsters some of the more subtle fruity tones of our malt, while adding a unique oak and spice character. The initial release will be very limited, less than 300 bottles, but as we move forward we intend to make more of this truly fantastic whisky. We’re also working on a new bourbon whisky which will become a regular label in the Balcones line of products. No release date is planned for the bourbon yet.

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