I was given access to Jared in order to find out about the man, the distillery and a few other things along the way…
What was your journey to where you are today?
It has been a completely unexpected one. I studied Ceramics and Social Work in college, and always figured I’d go back to school and teach college level ceramics. I got sidetracked with other work, music, and homebrewing beer. I left my non-profit job to open a craft beer bar with a friend, with the ultimate goal of brewing in-house, which never came to pass. In the meantime I fell in love with Scotch and was drinking everything I could get my hands on. I was already working on our first distillery build in my spare time just to help out, so when I was asked to be a Distiller and Production Manager at Balcones I jumped at the opportunity.
What is the most exciting thing in the whisk(e)y category for you at the minute?
A combination of innovation and the opportunities for terroir to bring new flavour combinations to the market. We are continuing to see small producers trying anything and everything they can in whisky making, from raw ingredients, process parameters and maturation decisions. We’re seeing so many new approaches and they are going to bring some exciting new possibilities to the world of whisky. I am also excited about seeing how local yeast, local and heirloom grains, and maturation climates are also giving whisky fans spirits made in completely new ways. It will be a lot of fun to see what effect the localized components give us in the finished spirit.
Did the previous situations around Balcones affect how you approached your role?
Oh, for sure. We came through such a crazy time, it took a good while to get the right people in place and spend the time and energy to build our culture. We had a huge challenge ahead of us to put together a great team and re-organize into a healthy and supportive place to work. Nothing is ever perfect, but I’m really proud of the crew and what we have built here. It has been non-stop growth for Balcones from day one, but we are in it for the long haul. We are loving the spirits we’re making, we’re working really hard and having fun doing it.
What innovations are in the pipeline? (Not the secrets, but wood experiments / mash bills etc.)
We have been working on 100% Rye whisky for close to two years and it’s coming together nicely. We have a small amount of peated malt that’s getting closer to release. There are quite a few finishing experiments going on currently too. We have also just laid down the first Single Malt with barley that was grown and malted in Texas, so we’re excited about that. And we have plans for some Brimstone variants using other Texas woods for the smoking process as well.
What would your ideal whisk(e)y taste like?
I couldn’t say one specific style or category. I do prefer the extremes, I really enjoy very delicate old Single Malts as well as huge cask strength Rye and Bourbon spice/wood bombs. I am a sucker for new aromas and flavors, I find myself gravitating to the odd ones and giving them time to grow on me. And ideal whisky should be so cohesive that you just enjoy it, and analyzing it or articulating your enjoyment comes as an afterthought. When it is truly singular you should have a hard time compartmentalizing the various components because it’s so unified and harmonious.
How would you sum up Balcones in a few words?
I would characterize Balcones as big, bold, complex and expressive.
Do you have a favourite within the range? If so, which?
That changes all the time. Single Malt was my first love – so I would probably say Single Malt if I had to choose. At any given moment my favorite is whatever we just finished blending. Special Releases are always fun because they don’t happen as often.
Away from your portfolio, what three whiskies do you enjoy sipping?
Anything from Glenfarclas, lately a good bit of Glendronach and Imperial. Oh, and of course, beer!