Diageo’s acquisition of Waco’s Balcones sparks mixed reaction among locals

London-based company owns iconic brands like Guinness, Bailey’s, Smirnoff and Crown Royal, among others
Published: Nov. 2, 2022 at 1:35 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - Diageo, which bills itself as the world’s best brand builder for premium drinks, this week announced it had acquired Waco-based Balcones Distilling, who it recognized as “one of the leading producers of American Single Malt Whisky in the United States.”

Diageo praised the distiller’s “diverse portfolio of award-winning super premium and above whiskies,” among them, Texas “1″ American Single Malt, Lineage American Single Malt, and Baby Blue Corn Whisky.

Locals and tourists, alike, have been enjoying them since Balcones Distilling opened in Waco in 2008.

“They were started in Texas and that’s exciting,” Mark Avalos, BBQ restaurant owner and Balcones fan, told KWTX. ”I’ve always been a fan of their flavors, their innovations, their marketing. Just the whole look and feel, I thought it was always great.”

“Balcones embraces Texas’ intense heat as well as its temperature fluctuations to create whiskies with differentiated flavors,” Diageo said.

According to company, the premium whiskey business has experienced consistent growth in the U.S. in recent years, “with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.3% from 2016 to 2021.”

“We are delighted to welcome Balcones Distilling into Diageo. The Balcones team are true innovators and pioneers in the emerging American Single Malt and Texas whisk(e)y movements, and their super premium plus whiskies are highly complementary to our whisk(e)y portfolio,” said Diageo North America President Claudia Schubert.

In a statement, Balcones Distilling Chairman Greg Allen expressed excitement about the beginning of a new era for the Central Texas brand.

“Balcones started with an idea driven by an innovative spirit and passion to create something original and authentic in the heart of Texas,” Allen said.

Some customers share this excitement.

“I think it’s good for Waco,” Collin Barry, a Waco resident, said. “Waco is up and coming so hopefully it’ll bring more business and light on Waco, and some more opportunities for Waco.”

Other Balcones frequenters, however, are more hesitant.

“It’s great for them,” Avalos said. “But it’s a little scary when a larger company comes in and takes over a small company, what they’re gonna do with it? That’s a little scary. I hope the flavor profile, and the innovations stay the way it is now.”

Overall, fans are hopeful Balcones will stay true to its Waco roots.

“I think as long as it stays with Balcones, the people that built this thing, they’re super rad people,” Amy Hunt and Mike Schwaab, Waco residents, told KWTX. ”So I’d like for them to do well and stay around. They’ve created a really cool vibe in Waco, so hopefully it stays local.”

According to its website, some of Diageo’s brands include Johnny Walker Black Label, Guinness, Baileys, Smirnoff, Crown Royal, and Buchanan’s.