Q&A With Balcones Head Distiller Jared Himstedt


February 24, 2023

Balcones Jared Himstedt

Balcones Distillery head distiller and founding member of the American Single Malt Whisky Commission Jared Himstedt kicked off the year by making a few predictions for 2023. He predicted three trends the whisky industry will see in 2023, and also talked about what lies ahead for Texas-based Balcones and the style.

First, the champion for American Single Malts foresees increased collaboration between whisky and other brands. He also predicts further emphasizing locality, with more distillers using local ingredients, playing to local climate, etc. Himstedt also sees American Single Malt distillers prioritizing.

We spoke with Himstedt to find out more:

Why do you foresee increased collaboration between whisky and other brands as a 2023 trend?

I think if we look at anything that involves any kind of sensory experience – restaurants are cross pollinating. I see collaborations between brands overlapping. Even as far as branding and marketing goes, it gives any brand to highlight maybe one aspect of their character. We’ve done our Shiner Bock collaboration. We’ve also worked with Jester King for years, laying down whisky versions of some of their beer recipes. I think drinkers are kind of ready for some new stuff. I know makers are. We have more ideas than even make sense.

Why do you foresee an emphasis on locality as a 2023 trend?

Once again, I think we’re seeing it in food. Even clothing. Even if it’s not local to where they live, a place that’s got kind of a story around where any given craft person makes their stuff, it feels less homogeneous, kind of post-industrialization. Obviously, food has been going that way for a long time. People want stories; they want to feel like it belongs somewhere.

Why do you think innovation will be a 2023 trend?

Innovation will be partly overlapping a with locality and collaboration. What we were doing 15, 20 years ago are not going to cut it anymore. Consumers are smarter and more educated that than they were 15 years ago. They want to see legitimate innovation. Obviously, the whisky still needs to be worth drinking, but there are so many things that have yet to be done. All those unexplored paths are kind of the bleeding edge of where our industry can operate.

How is Balcones planning to utilize these trends this year?

Any grains we’ve been using that we cold move to Texas production we’ve done. Barley’s been the toughest – malting-grade isn’t really found here. We’ve just cracked the tip of the iceberg of ways to get barley grown here. Finding alternate smoke sources as opposed to peat or importing peat. Beyond that, kind of more existential, less easy to grasp onto, but we definitely spend a lot of time talking about the personality of the place and the larger community where we are. What’s your starting point?

What do you think will be the most prevalent and important trend for 2023 in whiskey?

My guess is I would say the locality idea, just because I think it’s got so much steam and it’s building. I just feel like I hear more about it. That used to be a pretty rare concept, but every time I turn around, I hear it in brand spiels. I think innovation is maybe little bit more interesting to me. I would push back on the idea that just using local ingredients, that just checks the box.

What’s next for American Single Malt? Do you foresee the category growing in popularity this year?

I do. The trends for a decade now have been good. We’ve done so much work with distribution – chain liquor stores, whiskey-forward bars – and it all seems to be pointing up. One of the things we keep hearing is the fact it’s not federally recognized has caused some holdups. [A standard of identity proposal by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau is pending.] As soon as we get it legally recognized – we have a good feeling it’s going to happen this year – it’s going to open the flood gates. I know Beam and others have laid down a ton [of single malts] and are just kind of waiting, so it’s finally got enough attention that a lot of the big Kentucky brands are getting in on it. That tells us all we need to know. I’m biased, but flavor-wise, I think it’s some of the best whiskey being made in America.

For more information about Balcones, visit https://balconesdistilling.com/.

-Kevin Gibson