The popular HGTV show “Fixer Upper” isn’t the only thing making our neighbor to the north, Waco, a cool place to visit. So is the whiskey distillery Balcones Distilling, which recently received the honor of being named the top craft whiskey distillery in the country by readers of USA Today.
The publication’s “10Best set out on a mission to find the best craft and small-batch spirits producers — family-owned distilleries, grain-to-glass operations or distillers using only the best local ingredients in their products,” according to the 10Best editors.
To find them, USA Today asked spirits experts, from bartenders to judges to journalists, to nominate distilleries in a variety of different categories based off the spirits they make: whiskey, rum, vodka, gin, tequila and specialty spirits. Then, readers chose their favorites from each list. The Waco-based Balcones, which moved into a much bigger facility this spring to make a lot more whiskey — or, as the distillers there spell it, whisky — ultimately topped the other nominated whiskey distilleries.
And for good reason, according to 10Best.
“When you pick up a bottle of Balcones whiskey, you’ll notice it has been individually stamped in wax and labeled with a handwritten batch number,” the 10Best editors wrote. “Balcones Distilling’s whiskey lineup includes a Texas Single Malt, Baby Blue blue corn whiskey and Brimstone Texas Scrub Oak Smoked corn whiskey. Limited-release single-barrel whiskeys highlight unique variants and experimental whiskeys found nowhere else.”
Balcones also wasn’t the only Texas whiskey distillery to make the list. Garrison Brothers Distillery, in the Hill Country, earned the sixth spot. As I noted in a column last year, the state’s whiskey makers have been producing top-notch aged spirits that are only getting better each year.
In the tequila category of USA Today’s 10Best list, the Austin-based Dulce Vida Tequila placed ninth. The company (whose distillery is technically located in Mexico, where all tequila is produced) makes award-winning, 100-proof tequilas like the Lone Star edition of its añejo. Recently scooped up by the former makers of Deep Eddy Vodka, the distillery has branched out to make a line of flavored tequilas.
Each distillery was ranked after four weeks of voting. And for Balcones Distilling, being selected as number one was humbling.
“It was an honor be nominated by a respected panel of whisky experts, and to win the national vote speaks highly of our friends and fans,” Balcones head distiller Jared Himstedt said in a statement. “We are humbled by the outpouring of support that was given to us throughout the voting.”