When I grabbed this off the shelf, I honestly had no clue what I was getting. I knew only what the label told me--that it was a corn whisky and that it was a smoked whisky. In the mood for something peaty and campfire-y, I took a gamble, despite a somewhat hefty price of $60. Balcones makes good product, and I figured I had little to lose.
Upon popping the top off this one, I was pummeled with the heavy smell of liquid smoke. This stuff smelled like a mesquite grill, and it was strong! Even before pouring it out of the bottle, I could smell this whisky from across the kitchen. Admittedly, though, my mouth watered, much like it does when I walk into a barbecue joint or when I'm hovering around my neighbor's grill in the Summer as he slow cooks a giant piece of meat.
I don't usually comment on color, but with this whisky, the color was very noticeably red, lending even further to my premonition that I was about to drink smoked brisket in a glass.
As I fully expected by this point, though, upon my first drink, the smoke was all I tasted, from beginning to end. There was whisky in there somewhere, I just couldn't find it through all the smoke. And keep in mind, this is not the peat-bomb type smoke you'd find in certain single malts like Laphroaig. It was a whole new smoke flavor that I wasn't used to.
After a bit, the mesquite smoke flavor died down, only just a touch, but at least enough to notice certain flavors that were still subtle and hidden away. It was a sweet smokiness, underscored by brown sugar and even hints of crisp apple barely noticeable underneath. Some peppery spice was able to come out behind the iron curtain of mesquite smoke as well, and for fleeting moments I thought I was really enjoying this whisky.
In the end, though, the mesquite flavor overwhelmed throughout, almost completely masking the flavor of the whisky, rather than complementing or enhancing it. I did find it easier to enjoy on later pours, perhaps due in part to my getting used to it. However, the flavor was so strong that it comes across not as a peated or smoked whisky, but rather a flavored whisky. While I liked the flavor, I would like it much more if it were toned down to allow the flavor of the whisky to actually come through.