Since 2009 we have laboriously crafted our spirits by hand in an old welding shop under the 17th St. Bridge near downtown Waco. As the years went by, we churned out as much as we could, but the call for more whisky outgrew what our small distillery could produce. The need for a bigger and better Balcones was clear. In 2011, we acquired the Texas Fireproof Storage Building, a historical landmark in downtown Waco, just a few blocks down the road from our first distillery. The building has long served as our barrel maturation site, but in early 2016 it will become the new home of Balcones.
After years of careful planning and design, we finally broke ground on our new distillery early this year. Right now crews are laying pipe, welding copper and putting the finishing touches on our new base of operations. This is a monumental occasion for Balcones, and we are excited to move into the inspiring new life of downtown Waco.
The 11th Street Project combines the efforts of Waco-based firms Barsh Construction, Capstone Mechanical and Winton Engineering, the talents of ICC Engineering in St. Louis, MO, and the expertise of Forsyths of Scotland, to take Balcones’ craft to the next level, while respecting the traditions we’ve rooted ourselves in.
Transforming the nearly 100-year-old structure into a whisky distillery has been a massive undertaking; part of the building was reconstructed from the ground up to make room for our new copper pot stills, and numerous modifications have been made to convert the interior in a way that honors the history of the facility. Steps have been taken to reclaim and reuse materials that were part of the original construction, such as the 3rd floor Fur Vault door, which now serves as an entry to the whisky blending room.
Exquisite new copper pot stills were built in Scotland by the legendary Forthsyths, a family with seven generations of still building experience. Their unparalleled skill and knowledge was crucial to recreating the nuances of our two hand-built spirit stills in the 17th Street distillery. A custom helical lyne arm was designed to accommodate spatial limitations of the new distillery while imitating the system we use today. Currently, the stills are set in place as we piece together the rest of the equipment little by little. The distillery’s new mash tun was delivered in September after having recently been decommissioned from the Speyburn Distillery in Scotland.
Construction is slated to wrap up by the end of the year, and new production will begin at the start of 2016. The new spirit will still need time to mature in barrels, but we’re finally on our way to delivering more of the whisky our fans have come to love over the years. We are eager to join the momentum in downtown Waco, and thank you all for your patience.