What is it about distillers and chefs and artists? Why can they be so difficult to work with?
I read an article recently about Chip Tate (creator of Balcones) and his wild temper. It made me think about the frustration of artists in a business world. There are always stories in the restaurant industry about pots being thrown in the kitchen and hot tempers that rival the oven temperatures. We’ve all heard the stories of the directors in Hollywood that aggravate others working on the film. Artists can be difficult to deal with because they want it done their way. After all, it is their vision and they see it done in a specific way. The artist is happy to work alone and hone their craft.
The fact is that art is often great because it is the vision of one person, and that vision is often too big to be implemented by that one artist alone. Most times, the artist’s work starts small and the accolades roll in because the art is done so well. The artist is still in complete control of their medium that it has taken them years to perfect. Now the demand grows and more hands are needed to fill orders. This is where things can get dicey. The artist must now become the boss and delegate their own specialized job skills to untrained employees.
In the field of distilling, companies can go from a small still in a garage (licensed, of course) to an expansive business in a very short time. The whiskey boom is putting heavy stress on distillers to meet production demands. Often smaller distilleries do not have to capital to expand, so they partner with financial partners that now have a large say on how things are done within the company. The artist now has to become business person and politician.
Whiskey has always been big business in the United States. Before Prohibition, half of the U.S. government’s tax revenue came from whiskey. The business of whiskey will always clash with the art of whiskey. Ask any distiller about their whiskey, and they will gladly talk your ear off about how they make it and wax nostalgic about how wonderful their juice is. Just don’t ask about business or lawyers…