Balcones & Chip Tate Continued… The Magic of the Blend, Do Not Underestimate It.

For those who also follow me on Twitter, you probably already saw part of this exchange today, but for those of you who didn’t, Chip Tate, the former Master Distiller of Balcones replied to my tweet on a the Balcones Rumble.  He wanted to make sure that I, and all of you, knew that he had nothing to do with any of the Balcones production since August 5th, 2014.  We also exchanged several direct messages that you didn’t see and it is very clear that he is very proud of what is has accomplished, and is looking forward to his next project and leaving this all behind him.

For those of you who are not familiar with the history, the New York Times wrote an article providing the background (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/28/business/how-dreams-and-money-didnt-mix-at-a-texas-distillery.html?_r=0).  Essentially it’s a classic story of once a company gets to a certain size, the investors are no long happy with the founder and after continued disagreements, run him out of town.  These types of growing pains are unfortunately a recurring theme throughout the history of corporations (anyone remember Steve Jobs and Apple, the first time around?).  Restraining orders were exchanged, nasty words thrown back and forth, and as a result Chip Tate was no longer part of Balcones and the investors had the distillery, the brand, and the whiskey to do with what they pleased.

Chip made a very good point to me via twitter: “None of those bttls were blended by me. Good blending is extremely important, especially for young spirits.”  What I have noticed from reading other blogs, is that there appears to be too much emphasis on the origination of the distillation.  Certain blogs freak out about NDP (non-distiller producers), whether it’s Templeton’s, Whiskey Pig, or myriad other brands out there.  The negative connotations that bloggers put out about Indiana’s MGP kinda of makes me laugh–did they even try the product, or did they assume because it came from Indiana it must be bad?  On the flip side,  take some of the Orphan Barrel bottles (I owe you all reviews on them, I promise to get them out soon), or the post-Chip Tate Balcones… you could have the best master distiller, from the best distillery aged in the most historic rickhouse in the world… but if you don’t have a good blender, it’s all for naught.  So much of the magic that goes into the bottle is through finishing the whiskey, blending the right barrels together adding the correct amount of distilled water, and so much more.  Just because it was made at Stitzel-Weller doesn’t guarantee that it will taste like liquid gold… if it wasn’t aged enough, or too long (cough cough Old Blowhard), it will take one helluva blender to take the patient from code blue to resuscitated–or maybe a strong enough person is needed to tell the investors that they need to put it back in the barrel for another couple years??  A combination of both lesser blending and rushing product to market is what I think Balcones has been suffering from for the past 11 months, and it’s clear to me from tasting it.

Ultimately, a brand is only as good as it’s current product, and if the talented people who build the brand are gone and the replacements aren’t of the same caliber, the cache will erode and eventually fade away into history’s abyss.

Like I’ve always said, I judge a whiskey but it’s smell, taste and how it makes me feel.  The new Balcones product make me feel like I want my money back.

I haven’t tried the old stuff, and if anyone is willing to send me a sample, please direct message me on twitter as I’d love to try it and do another review.

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6 thoughts on “Balcones & Chip Tate Continued… The Magic of the Blend, Do Not Underestimate It.

  1. Nice post. I don’t think anyone has a problem with MGP. They make a damn good whisky. The issue is with people trying to pass it off as their own which is what Templeton and Whistle Pig have done. High West sells oodles of MGP (and stuff from other distilleries) and have never tried to pass it off as their own. Dave Perkins does some fantastic blending and puts out some truly delicious product. He’s the John Glaser of American whisky. Since you like adding links to your comments on our reviews, let me return the favor! Here’s a link to my review of three mostly MGP Rye whiskies:

    http://boozedancing.com/2013/04/03/dickel-bulleit-high-west-rendezvous-rye-review/

    Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Most people definitely have an issue with lying, but I think there are a lot of individuals out there, many of them bloggers, who have a pretentious attitude to MGP and other sourced whiskey. Not everyone is an enlightened as you.

    Also, I like your blog and your reviews, thank you for sharing them, I look forward to reading them when they come out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wouldn’t say I’m enlightened. More like I’ve learned to get off my high horse after trying some stuff that I thought I would really dislike.

      And thanks for the compliment! Look forward to more banter.

      Like

  3. Are you certain all the batches you tasted are post-Chip blends? I still find old bottles (“Chip Tate era”) in bars pretty often. I’d say there’s at least a sporting chance that you weren’t tasting all new product.

    Another point to bring up is that you don’t appear to have experience with BOTH pre- and post-Tate product, so how could you seriously compare the new product to something you potentially have never tasted?

    Like

      • Well, like I said, some old bottles are still out in the wild. But I couldn’t tell you specifically where to get one. Either way I think it is unfair to declare the new whisky isn’t as good as before when you haven’t experienced the previous blends. I’ve had both and IMO they’re both good. YMMV

        Like

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