December 9, 2013 § 1 Comment
The holidays wouldn’t be “the holidays” without an annual Holiday Gift Giving post. And this year, I’m forgoing my usual list of bottles & baubles and focusing on BOOKS!
It was quite a year for the literary set who enjoy indulging in a great dram AND a great read and I’ve pulled together a little mix of books that should make one quite happy this winter. I know I will be curling up fireside with my cozy faux fur blanket (like THIS ONE on sale at Pottery Barn), glass of whisky (Brenne please!) and these books for the long winter months ahead!
In order of the above photo, here’s the quick list. All titles click through to their respective pages on Amazon/Createspace.
- Apothecary Cocktails, Restorative Drinks from Yesterday and Today by Warren Bobrow ~
- Distilling Rob, Manly Lies and Whisky Truths by Robert Gard (& fellow whisky blogger, Whisky Guy Rob!)
- Drinking With Men, A Memoir by Rosie Schaap
- Guide to Urban Moonshining, How to Make and Drink Whiskey by Colin Spoelman & David Haskell (yes, that’s right, these are the awesome duo behind Kings County Distillery)
- Whiskey Woman, The Untold Story of How Women Saved Bourbon, Scotch and Irish Whiskey by Fred Minnick
- Savoring the Shore, Simple to Sophisticated Recipes from Chefts and Home Cooks for NJ Sandy Recovery, by Cheryl Larkin & Kate Kurelji
Beyond the fact that I personally know most of the authors and love supporting wonderful & talented people; I also believe in what each author has accomplished, whether it’s to educate, entertain or give back – read below for my quickfire thoughts on why they made the cut:
Apothecary Cocktails: There’s no question the “Classic Cocktail” movement is upon us – and it’s wonderful! The ever-talented Warren Bobrow takes us back in time with modern upgrades featuring 75 recipes for cocktail libations to soothe the body AND mind! Give this book with a few bottles of bitters for your favorite home mixologist!
Distilling Rob: An engaging story from “one of our own” whisky bloggers as he takes us through his roller-coaster life where at one point, he left his slick LA life to live and work on Islay in Scotland. Using whisky-making and the maturation process as an analogy for how boys mature into men – this is a no-brainer stocking stuffer for anyone!
Drinking With Men: I bought this at a book reading of Rosie’s I attended with a friend and left with 1/2 the eye make-up I went in with due to all of my tears from continuous laughing. This is a wonderfully engaging memoir that will having you wishing to travel through NYC retracing her steps. Sometimes I fall out of habit reading and need a good “hook book” to get back into it again – this is definitely one of those excellent page turners!
Guide To Urban Moonshining: I just got this and can’t WAIT to get started. (The fabric and feel of the book alone will give you instant “great gifter” cred). It’s filled with recipes, distillation techniques, stories, history, and a chapter called “How To Drink Whiskey” in which yours truly, along with Jonathan Wingo and Colin Spoelman, each wrote a couple pages discussing the bottles we’d suggest if we had to build a well rounded whisky bar using only 12 bottles and cover our bases from sipping to cocktails for your novice and experienced drinker. It was super fun and my first experience having any writings of my own published in a book. Yay! Pair this with a bottle of Kings County Bourbon or Moonshine for a great gift set!
Whiskey Women: THE BOOK that ought to be on everyone’s list! For the first time, Fred is sharing the untold stories of the women who have created & saved this most exceptional industry. It’s refreshing to have access to real stories that you haven’t heard before, that are not the same ones we know just told in a new way – no – this is fresh. And fascinating. And will give you a whole new appreciation for many of the whisky women who you may have met today and many of the distilleries whose drams you’ve probably enjoyed for a very long time. A true must read for anyone who enjoys a great book. Pair this with a bottle of Brenne – my own whisky – and support this particular whisky woman’s dream!
Savoring The Shore: while not a whisky book per se, there are 3 cocktails inside using Brenne Whisky, 2 of which were created by the author of Apothecary Cocktails, Warren Bobrow! But that’s not why it’s on this list. Instead, it’s because all proceeds benefit Hurricane Sandy relief and that is something that is very near and dear to my heart. I spent my childhood & teenage summers at my grandparents beach cottage on the NJ Shore which was completely wiped out by Sandy (we have yet to rebuild, but will as soon as we’re able) and so I have a personal connection with the Sandy Relief efforts. And what a fun way to give back!? You’ll get a great cook book featuring recipes from long-time local “shore folk” and Master Chefts like Bobby Flay, Tom Colicchio & Mike Jurusz.
**Please note that I do NOT benefit financially from the sale of ANY of these books – regardless of whether or not Brenne Whisky or myself were mentioned or as is the case of Guide To Urban Moonshine where I contributed a couple of pages. Instead, I promote them here because of my love of reading great books & supporting awesome, hard working people!**
October 16, 2013 § 14 Comments
For those of you who follow this blog with any sort of regularity, you know by now that I have been sharing moments this past year of my experience bringing my own whisky to the market.
It’s been exactly 12 months since Brenne first became available to anyone anywhere in the world, and I decided to launch it in my home city of New York. 3 weeks after our launch, Hurricane Sandy hit – but we persevered. We had our lives, we had a roof over our heads (however dark and cold it was!) and we had drive. That famous mach-5 New Yorker drive that inspires and challenges so many – it’s the collective heartbeat of the people of this fine city that, when tapped into, can compels you to greatness (or craziness … or both!).
I had a plan when I launched Brenne – a detailed one and a skeletal one. The detailed one went out the window on day 1. The skeletal one provided the framework & focus but allowed me to be flexible – learning the industry and market as I went along each day. And I’m GLAD I threw out that detailed plan, for the end goal in my first year looked a lot different then the reality, and the reality is AMAZING.
When asked what has surprised me most about this year, I can honestly say EVERYTHING.
When asked how I feel, aside from the obvious (TIRED!) – I am grateful, humble, and much to my surprise – a bit emotionally overwhelmed … I think a good (happy) cry-fest may be in order. (or a good long run!).
I have lived, breathed, loved & birthed Brenne from nothing and it’s at times overwhelming when I’ve been greeted with honors, applause, hugs and congrats. I know this is just whisky at the end of the day – but to me it’s a lot more. It’s a dream, a goal, a passion … I feel blessed that I have been able to get this off the ground, to put my money where my mouth is (literally, I invested my entire life savings to do this), quiet all of the doubt and chatter in life to commit myself 100% to a dream.
People must think I’m nuts when I thank them 1000 times for telling me they enjoy my whisky but it’s genuine because without people liking it enough to buy it, well, then I’d have a lot of whisky to consume by myself and not much of a business!
Here’s where I started in October 2012:
NYC with roughly 40 individual accounts primarily in the West Village neighborhood, a small subset of Greenwich Village, in Manhattan to whom I often hand-delivered bottles & cases. … and oh right, I also had a lot of bottles of Brenne to sell!
That’s me making a Brenne delivery (a common sight in NYC this first year!) and are those Brenne bottles peaking out of my purse!?
Here’s where I am as of October 2013:
6 States with plans to cover a majority of the US over the next 12 months, 5 (FIVE!) brand ambassadors across the US, an Icon of Whisky award, a feature in Food & Wine Magazine as their ONLY WHISKY for their Best New Spirits picks of ’13… and did I mention? We sold out.
Me accepting our Icon’s of Whisky award
I started saying recently that my company is 2 people big: 1 is me, 1/2 is my incredible husband (the brains & support system behind this crazy lady) and the other 1/2 is the #WhiskyFabric family. I owe a massive THANK YOU to so many of you in our blogger community for helping me in this first year. THANK YOU for including Brenne in your whisky discussions, for sharing my posts on your own blogs and around social media, for doing what we do best; spreading the word.
I have only 12 months under my belt but think it’s off to a really strong start. It hasn’t come without a daily dose of challenges, lots of headaches and hundreds of sleepless nights – making it to any degree in this industry is not a blissful adventure by any stretch (regardless of how many smiley faces I put everywhere) ;) but I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. And what’s even crazier is that I haven’t even scratched the surface of my goals. There is so much more to come from me + Brenne that I hope you’ll continue to stay with me and be present in this wild journey.
Welcome to the beginning. Again.
With that, I’m off for a vacation in Japan … where of course I’ll be gathering some great info & stories for this blog! See you when I’m back!
**All of my “Brenne Journey” posts are collected together on THIS PAGE (<click that link) should you wish to read through.**
July 30, 2013 § 17 Comments
The title of this post could go in a few different directions, however, today it encapsulates the reflective feeling I have over these last few years and the birth of Brenne.
Stop and smell the Whisky.
This has been quite a crazy 3+ years of my life. But I could say that about most periods of my life; I’m a very focused, all-in kind of person so there are times (like this “whisky” phase) that feel like I’ve been in it longer then I actually have. 3+ years you say? That’s all? (that’s how I feel when I think about my relatively short time here, I could have sworn I’ve been doing this for at least 7yrs).
Last week I was being interviewed by a talented journalist for a rather impressive piece of press (out this coming Sunday, fingers crossed it’s good!). I’m not a person who gets nervous too often and thus was confused when I struggled though the entire interview to put the words together to properly express myself. And then I realized, he kept asking me “when did it all begin?” and truthfully, there is no actual date on the calendar that I could give anyone as to when “Brenne” started. It “started” many times!
To this day, I can’t remember when & how I was first introduced to my distiller (despite it being probably one of the more important moments of my life!), nor do I even really remember a single moment when I said, “Ok, we’re doing this!” I feel like I woke up one day and was buying glass bottles in 6,000 piece order quantities as if this was a very normal thing to be doing. If you’ve ever heard me tell my story, it probably comes across as me being far focused on this particular outcome then it actually was. That is because there are so many different starting points of Brenne that I have to streamline the story and edit out all of the additional beginnings to spare you a long story full of extraneous tangents (but NOT today!). There are two main narratives here: the story of the whisky itself (where it’s made, what kind of still is used to make it, what barrels are used during the aging, etc) AND THEN there is the story of how I became the captain of this ship (and where the heck did I come from!?). Today I’ll be sharing with you the story of my involvement. If I had to draw it, I think the beginning of Brenne would look like this unraveled piece of rope with lots of “ends” … or in my case, beginnings.
So when I wrote “Stop and Smell the Whisky” – I thought not of smelling an actual glass of whisky (though that would be nice!) but rather because during the course of the interview, I was forced to stop, look at a calendar, and actually take into account certain days/years when this whole thing really began. I feel like I’ve been doing this now for years but the reality set in that I’ve really have only been at this for just a few!
BRENNE BEGINNING(S!); The Very Long Version of How Brenne Came to Be
I was working in an entirely different industry at the time (high-end jewelry) but even when I started there 3.5 years prior, I told my employer that I was going to have my own company one day, probably by the time I was 30 (I was 25 at the time). However, I had no idea what that was going to be, exactly.
Through my time there, I had really fallen in love with selling beautiful jewels to a lot of wonderful women across the US. In that tiny, 3 person company, we moved a LOT of gold and even increased sales 800% while in a recession (true number, it was ridiculous)! But always in the back of my mind was: what was going to be my mark on the world? I want to do this for my own company! … just not with diamonds.
Meanwhile, my husband was traveling the world for work (he is a branding consultant … and yes, this comes in VERY handy later on as we built the framework for Brenne!). While on the road (or rather, the many planes) he was getting himself (and me!) more and more interested in the Japanese whiskies that he was enjoying on frequent trips to Korea. This was just before people in the US started to really talk about Japanese whiskies – and well before Suntory (& eventually Nikka) started expanding their US imports. All the time my husband kept saying, “you should really import this stuff!”
At first I laughed it off – what did I know about importing whisky!? Nothing – actually. But I had started doing international sourcing (of gold & diamonds) in my current job and felt comfortable learning a new industry language after I realized the general framework was similar (except with alcohol, you could tack on about 1000 times more restrictions and legal twists & turns). So there I was, starting to formulate my own ideas on what I enjoyed in a single malt. What, to me, made one more enjoyable over the other? And as soon as I realized that simple question existed, my geek-dome exploded and scientific hunger of finding the answers took over (I blame my family – I was predisposed to being a nerd! Dad is a physicist, Aunts’ a rocket scientist, Uncle’s a nuclear scientist, 2 cousins are chemists,… need I go on?). I was a full blown whisky-geek before my friends even knew I drank whisky.
HELLO WHISKY FREAK!
Things in the company where I was working started to take a turn for the worse (and fast) and soon I realized that my time there had come to an end. Meanwhile, my husband was still a driving force in this whisky import company idea, and for the fun of it, I had started connecting with some of the world whisky distillers and importers out there. At one point we had taken a trip to Asia and scribbled down on a cocktail napkin what eventually morphed into the Local Infusions’ business plan. (In my Lifetime movie, this is where they’d cut to commercial break!) This is definitely one of those rope ends of the true starting points of Brenne! Somewhere in there we were tipped off to the 3rd generation Cognac distiller who was making what has now become Brenne. I never really believed what he was telling me was true (how could someone really be making whisky with no intention to sell it!? That’s so … NOT American!) and thus almost let my disbelief close the door on this forever. But we then started receiving samples from our distiller… and the juice was really promising! What we were trying at that point in time was about 3 & 4+ years old in New French Oak casks. Still – I did nothing with it.
By now, I had quit my job in the jewelry biz and declared a mandatory “2 weeks off” … from what, you ask? Nothing. Because I had no job lined up <-not a typical “Allison” move, but definitely another life-changing moment for from that break, I came out on the other end saying, “Ok, I’m either starting a popcorn company” (yup, no one really knew about that one either) “OR a whisky company!” (also not something my friends & family were expecting). Within a few hours the whisky company idea had won (as if there was ever any real competition!).
FOLLOW YOUR HEART and GUT
It was at that point that we started asking our distiller “friend” if we could try moving this whisky into his ex-Cognac casks. Again, when I tell this story I’m sure I sound very confident in this decision as if this had been our plan all along, but clearly, it hadn’t. And I really don’t know where the idea of ex-Cognac casks came from other than I followed my gut instinct as I was piecing together this crazy story of this near-secret whisky stash in Cognac, France. And it just felt like a really good idea – especially when I thought about how this whisky had been developed right there in Cognac starting with the barley that he grew himself. Funny enough, to this day, he (my distiller) is still far less impressed with how he’s made this then I am. To him, it’s “obvious” that if you want to make a high quality spirit, you must do it from scratch. What other way is there? To him, elegant spirits start with the seeds + the earth. Then you go from there.
While “Brenne” (in quotes because it hadn’t been named at this point) was being moved over into Cognac casks, I spent most of my time in NYC glued to my computer and phone, learning (also from scratch!) how to structurally set up my company within the 1,000′s of complicated layers known as post-prohibition laws. From the Federal level down to all 50 states, there is not one division who makes this easy. You can certainly pay to have a consultant figure this out for you – but if I’m putting my own money into this (let’s be frank: ALL of my own money into this dream), well then you better believe I’m going to put my money where my mouth is and learn everything I can. Otherwise, how else can I properly run this thing once it’s off the ground? It’s like buying a car without knowing how to change a tire or fill a tank of gas. Sure, you can always spend up and have someone else do the work for you, but if you don’t mind getting a little dirty, you can save yourself some big bucks. And at the end of the day, this has to be about the bottom line or else I won’t make it past Day 1.
LOCAL INFUSIONS IS READY
Once I got the import business set up (Local Infusions), then I realized the whisky (Brenne) still wasn’t ready – not to my palate at least (and then also Captin Doubt was still hanging around: did we REALLY want to do this? We could still drop this whole idea and ‘just’ be out some money – but no one would have to know! Me owning and producing a Single Malt Whisky from France still sounded totally foreign to me. Who the heck was I to be doing this?! Why had no one done this before? Because no one thought of it or because they had and realized this was just a terrible idea?). Insomnia and I became very good friends at this point.
In terms of barrel “management” (also known as a glorified taste tester) I spent many Saturday mornings with my nose in about 20 different Glencarin glasses of Brenne (& other assorted Single Malts for comparison) trying to take advantage of that prime-time when your sense of smell is the purest but a bed is nearby should the tasting part get a bit overwhelming pre-coffee! I was all self-taught and completely trusting my senses (as was my husband, Nital Patel, who was the biggest and best supporter behind this little engine!) but I just didn’t think the whisky was “there” yet and couldn’t put my name on something without it being as close to perfect as I could get it. So there I was with a fully set up business and no whisky to bottle (thus, no hope of any income anytime soon!). Cool! So to start somewhere, I now had some really awesome like-minded importer friends around the world who were telling me they were interested in trying some of these new American Craft Whiskies that were getting some buzz. This was early 2011 – Balcones wasn’t even distributed in New York at that point. I told the importers I knew that if they trusted me, I’d find them the best of the best and bring them not only brands who had something good in the bottle, but who were making it themselves and who had aesthetically pleasing packaging.
EXPORTING AMERICAN CRAFT WHISKEY
So began my 1.5 year stint as an American Craft Whiskey exporter. This got to be very expensive for a very little return. Between the cost of translators, international sample shipping costs and travel, I was coming in around $0 balance. But on the plus side, I had made some awesome friends on the American distilling side (finally!) and had launched Balcones in Norway, Sweden & re-lauched them in the UK. I almost got them signed up in France and Japan but at that point, the income didn’t support the work and Brenne was getting ready to be born. Though the funding was slim, at least I had some confidence knowing that I’d had some early wins in this new industry (still ridiculously close-lipped about Brenne).
BRENNE – the brand – COMES TO LIFE
So in January ’12, I shifted gears from exporting to developing the Brenne brand and put on my best creative director hat as I interviewed & eventually worked with designers to bring Brenne to life. After 6+ months of designing, TTB approvals, cork sourcing, bottle making, pallet treating, label material choosing (and of course, one final trip to Cognac before we start bottling …you know, to check on those aging casks!) in June of ’12, I started buying all of the pieces that were needed to pull this dream together so that on September 5, 2012, the first 8 barrels were bottled and Brenne was “born” – officially launching on October 1, 2012 in New York City.
10 months after Brenne’s launch date I sit here totally amused at where life has taken me – from a ballerina to owning a whisky brand (and an import company!). And though I’m not the distiller, I do own 100% of the whisky to come out of that distillery (of which currently only goes into Brenne Estate Cask) and life has truly never been more fun (or scary and demanding…but that much I expected). I definitely don’t choose the easy roads in life, but I follow my heart at each turn.
The rest … well … perhaps we’ll have to save that for another day! Thanks for sticking with me if you made it to the bottom of this post! It’s a lot more wordy than my typical entries but hopefully somewhat entertaining!
July 17, 2013 § 10 Comments
I hope you all are enjoying your summer! There have been a few of funny and uplifting short stories about me + Brenne that I’ve shared recently with my small community on Facebook. After seeing their overwhelmingly positive responses, I felt that they might be fun to share with all of you here as a tiny collection.
Hope you enjoy them too! But first, as I sit here in the wee hours of the morning – my favorite time to write and edit posts – let’s play a game of “What’s In My Glass?” … ok, it’s brown, it loves ice, and Jim McEwan has been synonymous with the distillery for the last 10+ years…
drum roll please…
Keep in mind that I live in New York City and for this first little story, it’s helpful to note that “the roof” refers to my building’s super-special rooftop garden oasis! Ahhhh…. it’s where my sanity lives!
AS OF JULY 17th:
Last Thursday I was on the roof with the lovely Georgie Bell (SMWS Global Ambassador) & my husband, Nital Patel, when our neighbor Jesse came up to join us with his friend. It was Nick Hoult. After a while I said, “I’m sorry, I’m really bad with knowing people I should know… should I know you?” He was adorable & humble and once it came out that he’s playing the Beast in the upcoming X-Men film, he promised to take a photo of himself in his makeup with Brenne
As for the whisky: We sat up there enjoying the warm company and glowing sunset with Smooth Ambler Old Scout Rye Manhattans (and cheese, plenty of creamy French cheeses, naturally!).
[side note: apparently, the production company owns the rights to photos of the actors in costume thus I won't be able to post any pictures of Nick with Brenne in costume - but it would be fun for the personal archives if I'm ever able to get a copy! If not - it's certainly a lovely thought!]
ALSO AS OF JULY 17th:
This morning (as of 10:30 am on Tuesday, 7/17) I got a call from my buddy Cristiano Andrade (buyer for SeaGrapes Wine & Spirits) asking me to bring some Brenne Whisky down to his store, “within the next 3 minutes.” Well I know a call-to-action when I hear one! Still in my gym clothes I ran down the street with a case of Brenne tucked under one arm. There was Don Johnson buying 1/2 the case to give as gifts … he said they were for his “leading ladies” (to which I assumed he was just some guy with a harem of women) but the more he spoke I realized he might literally mean “Leading Ladies” so I said, “Oh, are you an actor?” He said Yes. I asked if he was more into films or broadway … then he said, “I did a show called Miami Vice … maybe you know it?” He was extremely sincere – we were cracking up because I AM the WORST at knowing people I “should” know … but he asked me to sign the bottles of Brenne and off he went to board his friend’s private plane …
Not a bad week for Brenne!!! Good for me I’m not easily embarrassed! LOL
AS OF JULY 10th:
I was at an ATM the other day and the woman one machine over said, “Excuse me, but is that Brenne Whisky in your bag?” Happily surprised & a little thrown I said, “Yes! Do you know about it?” And she said, “Oh YES! It’s the best whisky I have ever had!! My friends and I drink it all the time!”
Seriously, my mouth hit the floor. I introduced myself (which in turn surprised her), exchanged cards, and told her if she or her friends ever had any questions to give me a call. After a quick show of her dog doing his tricks, I thanked her profusely and walked out of the bank a little bit taller. Still don’t totally believe it happened myself! #LittleEngineThatCould
POSTED ON JUNE 5th
So yesterday I had a meeting with a restaurant who was very clear that “they didn’t have ANY space behind the bar to take in any new products” but, because I’m a neighbor, they agreed to a meeting. I told them I’m a “no pressure sales gal” but that they should at least try it. Brenne will soon be out of stock and the next shipment won’t be ready till the Fall – so they should figure out now if they like it to get on a list.
I poured a small sip for both owners and before I knew it, one grabbed the bottle and poured little samples for every one of their regulars sitting at the bar while the other ran down and grabbed his check book. All of their regulars immediately jumped up and came over to shake my hand & tell me what a “winner” I had created, while the other owner wrote me a check on the spot and asked me to run home and grab 2 more bottles – right then and there – and to check back with them in a couple of weeks to make sure they can stock up before the shortage!
Brenne is now available at Tavern on Jane, NYC.
And since it’s summer, I’ll leave you with one easy Brenne recipe:
BRENNE WHISKY FIGS
Get some fresh figs (the bigger the better!) and cut into quarters (if they’re fresh enough, you’ll be able to break them apart with your hands).
Throw them under the broiler for just a couple minutes to caramelize their natural sugars and top with a little Brenne whisky. You can thank me later!
Here’s me with a strainer full of fresh picked figs, right off the tree!
Just a few more tales from this whisky woman’s adventures of launching her own whisky brand … who continues to be grateful and happy to learn that others share her vision – and taste! (PHEW!)
June 26, 2013 § 5 Comments
Summer must be book-signing season! Here's where to find me over the next couple of months. If I'll be in your neck of the woods, please come out and say hello!
Saturday, June 29, 2-4 pm - Drink demo & book signing at Cook & Craft, Old Greenwich, CT
Thursday, July 18, 5:30-6 pm - Book signing at Tales of the Cocktail…
HI FRIENDS!!! MY COMMENTS START HERE:
This is my very first "Reblog" but there is a reason I'm doing it for this post (keep reading!) :D. As you all know, I'm a HUGE supporter of artists and appreciate that art is expressed in a variety of mediums; from paintings, to making whisky, to writing, to performing, to creating recipes, cooking and beyond. I wanted to write a shout-out post to an artist I respect, author Kara Newman, for her just-released book, "Cocktails For A Crowd." But seeing as she's a true writer AND wrote a blog post announcing the book and her summer book signing tour, I figured a reblog was more than appropriate this time. Oui?
I hope the formatting is ok (again, total reblog virgin here!) but please enjoy, support & share your comments as always below! I'm off to buy a new punch bowl! Congrats Kara! ~Allison
June 13, 2013 § 18 Comments
This post could have also been titled:
Whisky Love Affair: Suntory
There isn’t one particular reason that I love Suntory - but more a collection of experiences gained over the years. The first, and perhaps most important, being that they are the producers of “the dram” that set me down this path of total Whisky geekdom, which I will always attribute as being Suntory’s Yamazaki 18. The second being that we always have a bottle of the Yamazaki 12yr on hand – always (which I have reviewed in the past HERE). I have long admired the Japanese esthetic – and when it’s applied to luxury, it doesn’t typically come across as being ostentatious or glitzy glam – but instead clean elegance.
And it was this minimalistic elegance that was on magnificent display a month ago on Tuesday, May 14th, at the Art of Suntory event at the Noguchi Museum in New York. This was no ordinary tasting, mind you, but an experience to not be quickly forgotten. No attention to detail was spared – from the sleek slate gray invitation with the carefully commissioned muted gray cheery blossom photo stamp – a detail so quiet it was not done to stand out on its own but rather aid in setting the tone for the pending event – to the exquisitely chosen location; the striking Noguchi Museum.
Entering the museum, we were greeted by a row of adoring fans … er … no, that’s not right …. rather a group of cheerful servers with delicate delicious amuse-bouches prepared by the renowned chef, David Bouley paired with a Hakushu 12 Highball. Delightful!
And don’t think for a second that you were able to just “show up” … no, when I say they took care of everything – they did. We were given a choice to 2 convenient meeting points in Manhattan – where we then boarded luxury shuttle buses to be driven off to (and from!) the event in Queens. Talk about an entrance. We were first welcomed by being handed a printed Suntory silk scarf – the color of which signified your level as a guest (red was press!) which was folded origami style into a pouch containing the program for the evening, a press packet & whisky menu. Classy. After walking past the line of servers above, we strolled outside to connect with #WhiskyFabric friends new & old. You could feel the excitement building in the air. No one knew quite what to expect but the foundation for a stellar evening was laid.
It kicked off outside with an impressive showing of whiskies and Suntory personalities, including CEO Toshi “TJ” Kumakora, Master Distiller Mike Miyamoto, USA East Coast Brand Ambassador Gardner Dunn and USA West Coast Brand Ambassador Neyah White, all of whom played an important role of guiding us through the evening.
Neyah White kicked us off with a Japanese word (sounded like “omo”) that means: opening up barriers. This can take on so many forms – from our zen garden settings in the midst of urban NYC to the overall fact that the world whisky category is here to stay. We heard from Mike Miyamoto (pictured below) who took us through the tasting and chef David Bouley who shared his own experiences of whisky + food coming together to enhance each other.
THE TASTING (photographed above):
YAMAZAKI 18YO | Nose: caramel, vanilla rooibos tea, sweet herbal notes | Taste: Herbal sweet & warming spice tea notes continue, long smooth finish. Heaven in a bottle.
HAKUSHU 25YO | Nose: burnt orange peel, mild sweet smokiness, fresh flowers … lilies, bit of evergreen forest | Taste: Spicy! Dark earthy tones – not piny but more of moss/mold in a good way!
HIBIKI 21YO | Nose: pear, honey, smoke | Taste: very balanced, not too many individual tastes popped out at me. Plenty of complexity.
The weather was perfect for such an event which flowed seamlessly between the indoors & outdoors areas. In hindsight, I don’t remember ever consciously walking to a place because it was indoors or out – but rather because the mood (or, let’s face it, WHISKY!) was calling me!
In the photo above on the right is William O’Donnell of The Men’s Collective and my husband, Nital Patel (which was a huge treat for me as it’s often hard to align schedules and actually attend a whisky event together!).
After the guided whisky tasting – they opened up the other “stations” around as more guests joined in the fun. The food, which started flowing out of the hidden kitchen, was a collection of delicate little morsels of goodness made with the intention of bringing out a particular aspect of the Single Malts or Blends.
We strolled, tasted, sampled, chatted and enjoyed ourselves for hours. Having particular joy in chatting with G-LO & Limpd of the It’s Just The Booze Dancing Blog, Josh Feldman, of the Coopered Tot blog (photographed below) and Stephen from The Malt Imposter.
Below, East Coast Suntory Brand Ambassador Gardner Dunn quickly shaves large cubes of ice down into perfectly rounded spheres and Suntory’s not-for-sale sparkling water bottled at the Yamazaki distillery used in the Hibiki 12 Highballs.
We ended the night strolling through the garden one more time – enjoying the sunset, whisky, food and company. But just when you thought they couldn’t pull out any more surprises, as we wound our way back through the museum to board a return bus home, there were YAMAZAKI TRUFFLES!!!!! I got so excited mine jumped from my hand and proceeded to roll across the floor at such a pace (leaving a little trail of dusted chocolate as it went!) I thought someone might have been controlling it via remote! Well, I can only be classy for so long, I’m surprised my bus didn’t turn back into a pumpkin halfway along the journey!
HUGE THANKS TO: Suntory & Exposure USA PR Company for hosting & inviting us to such a wonderful event. Particular thanks to Exposure’s Danielle Katz & Nicholas Rotondi for your generosity & going above and beyond to make us feel welcome. And BIG THANKS to the #WhiskyFabric crew who also attended and made this event feel far more personal than any event could.
APOLOGIES to Suntory & Exposure for my month-long delay in writing this post! I wanted this to be as perfect as the event has been preserved in my head … but then realized that would be impossible and it was more important to just get this done! :D Sorry for the writer’s block!