“Before he can make his new stills, Chip Tate has to make liquid-cooled welding gloves. Otherwise, the Texas whiskey-­maker might turn his hands into crisps as he builds the six copper stills for his new distillery, Tate & Company. “I’m one of the few that still uses direct fire as opposed to steam to heat the still,” Tate says. “You have to use much thicker metal.” That direct flame imparts subtle flavors, thanks to the additional heat it produces—anywhere from 500 to 800 degrees Fahrenheit. And that heat requires those special gloves. The radiation alone is enough to catch standard welding gloves on fire.

Tate didn’t set out to be a still-maker. Seven years ago, when he was preparing to open his first distillery, Balcones Distilling, the stills he ordered needed modifications. So he did them himself. Since then Tate has continued to make his own equipment—an impressive feat considering he taught himself how to weld while “tinkering away” in his shop. Once Tate gets his new distillery running, he plans to build and sell stills to others. “I’m finally admitting I’m a still-maker,” he says. “This is just something I do, apparently.” Something he does very well, as legions of whiskey lovers will attest. ­— A. D. C.”

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