What Is It About Distillers and Artists?

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 want to see it done properly. 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 which 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 employer and delegate their own specialized job skills onto (as yet) 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 the available capital to expand, so they find financial partners who now have a large say on how things are done within the company. The artist now has to add “politician” to their repertoire.

Whiskey has always been big business in the United States. Before Prohibition, the liquor industry represented half of the U.S. government’s tax revenue. 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 their process and wax nostalgic about the inspiration behind founding their company and how they built their brands. Just don’t ask about business or lawyers…