16 November 2012

Whisky Insiders Interview - Chip Tate

Balcones Distillery

President & Head Distiller


How long have you been working in the whisky industry?
About five years now. I have been a brewer for nearly 20 years, mostly amateur, which is what really brought me in to whisky business. Funny story actually, I was preparing for what was then the Institute of Brewing’s Diploma exam when they joined with the Guild of Distillers. In that first year, there was no time to create a separate diploma exam for distillers, I imagine, so they just tacked a distilling section on to the brewers’ diploma exam. I wouldn’t say that fully prepared me as a distiller, but it certainly underscored the relatedness of my brewing experience to the production of whisky.
What has been your biggest career highlight to date?
Definitely Balcones win of both Whisky Magazine’s Icon awards as well as the Wizards of Whisky World distillery of the year award in the same year. It’s been wonderful to see Balcones whiskies be so well received.
Can you remember your first dram, and indeed what it was?
I’m afraid that’s been too many drams ago. But I remember that it made me want to try more and different whiskies. I do remember that I gravitated toward Scotch malts very early, Islay whiskies in particular. Since then I have broadened my horizons to include many other whiskies including American styles.
What does whisky mean to you?
Whisky is an expression of place, at its best, I think. It’s a beautiful conjunction of art and science that involves many simple processes which combine in complicated ways to become something unspeakably complex.
Where would you like to see yourself in five years time?
Right where I am, honestly! That is I hope that we’re able to continue our expansion into our new facility and grow, both as distillers and a company. But I want to stay here at Balcones for many years.
What was your last dram?
I’m actually enjoying a rather unique dram right now. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear it was an older high rye bourbon with a touch of Armagnac added. Infact, it’s our most recent blend of Rumble Cask Reserve, an interesting spirit distilled from a mixture of Demerara sugar, mission figs and Texas wildflower honey.
Do you have a favourite whisky and food pairing combination?
Picking a favourite would be hard, but I recently enjoyed a mixture roasted sweetbreads, whisky soaked peaches and pork belly with a nice soft malt whisky that was fabulous.
What’s your favourite time and place to enjoy a dram?
I have a nice big porch at our house, so there around dusk with a friend would be my favourite. Add a nice cigar and I’m in bliss.
What do you think is going to be the next big thing on the whisky horizon?
There are so many exciting things going on right now it’s hard to say. Certainly the advent of the American craft whisky movement would be on that list.  We’re still early in the game there, but I think we’ll all get to enjoy quite a few more excellent and unique whiskies as the industry continues to mature.
I’m also very excited the variety of whiskies that are becoming more available.  It used to be that we could only get a good selection of quality American, Scotch and Irish whiskies (and only a few Irish at that) in our neck of the woods. I love that we’re now seeing new offerings from England, continental Europe, Japan, India, Australia and the list goes on. There’s tremendous energy continuing in the whisky industry right now.
What’s the one dram you couldn’t live without?
I feel like a traitor to the cause to have to pick just one, but if I must. Balcones malt is favourite of mine for obvious reasons.
Many thanks to Chip Tate. Who will be the next Whisky Insider? Click back soon to find out!