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Food & Drink

Texas whisky beats Scotland's finest in London blind tasting

Photo: Photo by Scott Andrews, License: N/A

Photo by Scott Andrews

Chip Tate and his hand built condenser.


No wonder getting extra investment is tricky business.  “Big companies buy small crafty makers — it’s what I call ‘petting butterflies,’ something that almost always results in killing the butterfly,” explains Tate. As if to acknowledge the rather atypical position they are both in, and Tate’s control of it, Germer recollects, “A year ago, when Chip was making Brimstone, he told me that he was really learning an incredible amount about how wood and alcohol interact at the molecular level. I know that Chip is a really bright guy, but I wonder half the time — is he crazy?”

Not crazy — crazy people (and companies) don’t succeed as many times as Balcones has, or as quickly. “This is the biggest whisky boom ever,” says Germer. “What used to be referred to as developing countries — India and China, are consuming increasing amounts. We ship our first shipment to Japan in four days, to Australia four days after. We’re already in Norway and Sweden, and we’re about to re-ship to the UK.”

Meeting demand is the issue.

But idealist? Hell, yeah. “You’re obsessed with truth,” I tell Tate.

“He has a masters in divinity,” says Germer, on cue.  Later, Tate will explain that the school, Union Presbyterian Seminary, in Richmond, Virginia, does not specialize uniquely in developing clergy. He attended for personal reasons. But Tate does acknowledge that though he is “less religious than I used to be,” his parents “grew up Baptist.”

“Brimstone. Think about the name,” challenges Tate. “Baptists are if anything sociologically unique. They are not easily captured, but what defines a Baptist is that they are congregationally run, rather than structurally based — like Catholics, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and such. And whatever they think about things — many of which they are not sure about — they’ll be damned if anyone else is going to tell them.”

Academics, a Presbyterian divinity degree, and the nuclear industry aside — I think Chip Tate is making Baptist whisky. And I, for one, am sure as hell not going to tell him how to do it. 

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