September 15, 2014 § Leave a comment
I woke up at 4:30am with the concept for this post swirling around in my head. I took some notes and tried to go back to sleep for another hour or two but my body’s olfactory system reminded me of the smell of a specific nespresso flavor that I’ve been loving recently and wouldn’t let me go back to sleep.
So, it is with the early morning sounds of the NYC garbage trucks rolling below my windows, a very dark sky and the distinct smell of the early morning mixed with my freshly made coffee that I sit and write.
To begin, I hope that you all had incredible summers. It’s such a distinctive season; a clear marker of time and one that makes you inspired to take note of your day-to-day and infuse it with more outdoor activities, social gatherings and hopefully, a vacation or two. This particular summer was a bit of an interesting one for me. I’ve written before about how challenging this journey of launching my own whisky company is (and yes, I’m still a 1 person company! #drinkbrenne) and how strange, lonely, frightening & exhilarating it is to journey from one mountain peak to another. Since my last post (~6 weeks ago), in keeping with that analogy, I haven’t felt like my usual “mountain climber” self but instead like an intense, bullish, excavator; burrowing in straight lines underneath the trails instead of wasting steps going up, over, and back down again.
When asked this past weekend how my summer was I reflected for a moment, smiled and simply said, “focused!“
With my husband traveling every week for work, my week nights were not our typical “married couple routine” of ending work at some late evening hour, eating dinner in front of the TV, cleaning up/prepping for the next day and/or trip, chores, bed. Instead, I just kept working – often late into the early morning hours (like the time I woke up today!). I felt like a human machine working through my micro and macro tasks with efficiency and excitement. I checked off my To Do lists with gusto and even started running again on a more regular basis (which only fueled the focus even more!).
The great thing is as Fall kicks off, I feel ready. I’m looking forward to a strong close of 2014 and think 2015 is going to be exceptional. Lots of exciting things happening for Brenne so I hope you all stay tuned. It’s funny, as I hit the pavement running literally (I often post photos and what thoughts I meditated on my run on my personal Instagram feed HERE if you’re interested), I regularly reflected how happy I am that whisky takes so long to make. For someone who throws a lot of balls in the air and constantly moves things forward to get these opportunities to drop, I really appreciate that at least one aspect of this business is quiet, calm and something that really truly cannot be rushed.
Enjoy your beauty sleep, Brenne. I’ll be ready for you when you’re done!
…and with that, it’s time to lace up my sneakers & fly! Happy Kick-off to Fall, everyone! I’ve got a sunrise to run towards :) ~ xo ~ Allison
July 17, 2014 § Leave a comment
I’ll never forget the moment Fred Minnick called to interview me for his book, “Whiskey Women: The Untold Story of How Women Saved Bourbon, Scotch and Irish Whiskey.” I was on an NJ Transit train barreling away from NYC into the heart of New Jersey where my grandmother, Grace, was saying goodbye to family, friends and life in general.
Though it was over a year ago now, I still feel her loss daily and even reached for the phone to call her recently upon returning from a trip abroad. My grandmothers were key figures in my life for over 30 years and I lost both of them within 6 months of each other. They loved and supported me equally in their own way through my many self-reinventions and career moves.
Grandmom (Grace) was a truly remarkable spirit. She was bold, loving, courageous, curious, had an incredible laugh and LOVED to tell stories (we’d often laugh at how she say she’d have “nothing to share” but then launch into a 40min story chronicling her journey to the post office). She passed two weeks shy of her 102nd birthday and was just as strong and lively a week before her passing as she was the previous 101 years.
So it was interesting for me to be interviewed by Fred in that exact moment when I was deeply reflecting on the incredible life my Grandmother lived and the unsung gifts she had given to everyone she met from 1911-2013.
Fred and I had had a few conversations prior but at the time of the interview, had not yet met face-to-face. He had a way about him that instantly put me at ease and I marveled at how seamlessly the conversation between us flowed as the views of the city quietly disappeared and were replaced with industrial buildings and eventually trees.
When people meet me or talk to me, I don’t think “shy” is a word that comes to mind (nor is it a word I’d use to describe myself most of the time) but I remember being extremely grateful to Fred for even considering to include me in his book – and yes, when it eventually launched with great success, I was certainly shy to promote his inclusion of me in the pages with so many great women – many of whom seemed to possess the qualities I saw expressed by my grandmothers throughout the decades we shared together.
It’s a huge honor when anyone takes an interest in something you do – especially when you’ve risked everything and “put it all on the line” to do it! When I was working on Brenne the years before it was ready to be released, I sectioned off my anxiety about “reviews” and buried them deep inside as I didn’t want any fear for potential negativity to effect my innovation and drive to create something so expressive of the Cognac region and yet so different from any other Single Malt on the market.
I remember when we launched (just 19 months ago!) I’d read blog reviews of Brenne on my phone with shaking hands just praying that they’d be “at least neutral” and feeling my heart melt with happiness when it was one positive review of Brenne after another.
For my Grandmothers who were my biggest cheerleaders of all – I know they were incredibly confused when it seemed that my life took an almost abrupt turn from “ballet to booze” but they nonetheless rooted for me – even if they didn’t understand a single thing I was doing.
Walking off the train that day to sit with my grandmother that afternoon, I shared with her the news of the interview and magnitude of having someone like Fred Minnick take notice of me & my work in those early days. We shared in the excitement together as my faithful cheerleader gave me one of her memorable “I’m so proud of you!” hurrahs one final time. Grandmom was all about family and knowing that all of that cheering she’d done for me here on earth was starting to work in my favor, that maybe “this whisky thing” would work out after all, made us both proud as we sat holding hands that last time.
Fred’s book will always hold a special place in my heart especially because it marks an interesting time in my life. The inclusion of me in context with all of these incredible women in history who greatly impacted the whisky industry – a spirit & industry which I love deeply – is beyond humbling and also something I find comforting. It’s not just my family who has faith in me doing what I’m doing but also all of you – my friends, my peers, my fellow whisky lovers.
A HUGE congrats to Fred who’s book, Whiskey Women was just selected as THE Nonfiction Book of the Year in the Women’s Studies category by Foreword Reviews. It’s an incredible book that continues to climb to the top of the charts. If you haven’t picked up a copy, you can certainly do so now by clicking HERE. I strongly suggest making this your beach read for the 2nd half of the summer!
Thank you also to Drinks Business for recently naming me one of the TOP 10 WOMEN IN WHISKY!
I’m grateful beyond words at being considered one of Fred’s modern day Whiskey Women warriors and look forward to keep pushing forward.
CHEERS & HUGS TO YOU ALL
June 27, 2014 § 5 Comments
I’m super excited to share something totally fun & a little silly with you we’re calling #BrenneVoyage! Every day during the month of July, I’m going to post a photo of Brenne “out and about” and will tag the photo using the hashtag BrenneVoyage on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
As many of you may know, as the founder of Brenne Whisky (pronunciation reminder: “Brenne” rhymes with “zen”), I’m almost always in possession of a bottle of Brenne. It goes with me everywhere and in a lighthearted way, I’ve found myself occasionally referring to these bottles as having personalities and being far from the inanimate objects that they are (after all, I certainly care for them as if they were my children!).
So on a recent trip to Paris, my mother and I had a blast taking Brenne on a sight-seeing trip around town, photographing it’s journey along the way. When we got back and realized just how many of these photos we had, I thought it was only right to share them in a mini-series that you can follow along on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook by searching for the “#BrenneVoyage” hashtag. It was a hilarious way to enjoy a city that I love so much, the theme of which has now taken on a life of it’s own.
I certainly encourage you to grab a bottle of Brenne, your camera and your sense of humor and join me in this month long photographic journey shooting Brenne around town, on your vacation and hanging out with you this summer – just make sure you use the hashtag #BrenneVoyage so we can all see them! (And please respect your local liquor and open-container laws!).
Here’s a taste of the “behind the scenes” …
And below is a teaser of what’s to come …
Hope to see you around the interwebz … I’ll be the one with a bottle of Brenne in her hand galavanting around some of my favorite cities :)
#BRENNEVOYAGE STARTING JULY 1 2014
June 4, 2014 § 2 Comments
Hello! It’s that time of year again! Father’s Day is around the corner and I’m sharing some of my top picks for your whisky-loving Dad! This year I’ve decided to showcase a highbrow and lowbrow option for the each item – hope you enjoy!
Feel free to share some of your favorite whisky gifts in the comments below (no sales pitches, please).
SANDS OF TIME
To me, sipping on a nice single malt is all about the appreciation of time. The time it took to make the elegant spirit, the time we have now, the time we get to surround ourselves with those we love. Get your Dad an hourglass for him to peacefully reflect on the essence of time over his next a good dram!
HIGHBROW: Restoration Hardware Vintage Brass Hourglass ($249-$299 USD)
LOWBROW: CB2 Hourglass ($9.95 – $29.95 usd)
So you want to make some cocktails, eh? Well I think that’s a grand idea! Why not practice and hone your skills together for some quality father + daughter or son bonding time?
HIGHBROW: Private Mixology Classes by Liquid Lab NYC (price upon request)
LOWBROW: The Ultimate Bar Book; The Comprehensive Guide to Over 1000 Cocktails ($8.63- $11.57 usd)
CRYSTAL CLEAR ACCOUTREMENT
Help make his home bar brilliant with the clean lines and the sparkly shine of cut crystal or hand-blown glass! At our home, we always have at least 1 decanter filled at all times with the “help yourself” whisky (the geeky ones tend to stay in their respective bottles).
HIGHBROW: Waterford Designer Studio 2012 Copper Coast Whiskey Decanter and 4 Rocks Glasses ($2,300 usd)
LOWBROW: Lexington Whiskey Decanter ($69.95 usd)
DON’T FORGET THE WHISKEY / WHISKY!
No Father’s Day or family gathering would be complete without a great bottle of Single Malt to share! Don’t forget to pick one up or have one delivered to your husband, Papa & Grandfather this Father’s Day!
HIGHBROW: Macallan Lalique ($37,000 usd)
MEDIUM BROW: Brenne French Single Malt Whisky ($55-$65 usd) <Come on … how could I NOT include it? :D
LOWBROW: Tasting Sample of Ben Nevis 21 ’90 Ruby Bottling Note ($16 usd for 3cl)
This concludes my 2014’s Father’s Day Gift Guide. There are plenty of awesome whisky-related items out there to discover and you can take a look back through my other gift guides (collected onto a single page HERE).
Most importantly, to all Dad’s, soon-to-be Father’s, Grandparents, Godparents, Uncles and more; a most sincere Happy Father’s Day from yours truly!
April 25, 2014 § 13 Comments
My mother jokes that Brenne is her grandchild. I appreciate the joke as Brenne Whisky certainly feels like my first born! And this little baby of mine is gearing up to be a toddler at 18 months old!
Lately I’ve gone through a little internal adjusting and it’s been an interesting game of realization, reflection and a touch of soul searching.
Last Friday my good friend Jackie Summers (of the ridiculously delicious Sorel liquor and yes, he is the Jack From Brooklyn) stopped by to drop something off in advance of a photo shoot we’re doing together next week for an article (yay!). When he arrived, I was not in my usual 100mph, multi- stimuli and multi- everything pace. Instead, I opened the door, hugged him and went back to my living room floor where I laid down, face first.
This journey I’m on is truly incredible. I couldn’t be more blessed; we’re exceeding our goals, leaping over our sales projections, YOU all have continued to be here with me (thank you!), I love when I travel and have the opportunity to meet people in the flesh from all over who we’ve been in contact with on social media (hey #whiskyfabric!), the press & fellow bloggers continue to help me get the word out and I have the BEST team of Brand Ambassadors (via Classic Imports, yay!) out there every day sharing my vision and my little whisky.
Sometimes – the reality of which just smacks you upside the head. Even with all of that support – I’ve still bitten off a LOT. And in my own tiny, super small way, just that fact that I’m still here is a huge accomplishment for me. But WOW – there is still just so much work ahead and on that day, I felt like life had just rushed ahead and left me in the dust. I kept asking myself how am I ever going to get to the tops of these mountains? And man have I have chosen some massive mountains to tackle!!! I was lying on the floor covering my head because the view from my tiny peak was making me nauseous just as much as the realization of how much farther and higher I want to climb! I see plenty of other people climbing these mountains too, but they all seem to have huge teams, fancy gear and a documentary entourage in tow! Yikes. I’m still climbing solo.
This is not an easy road at all. Naturally, I only share publicly the highlights of this journey, but I tell people who are thinking about starting their own _X_ in the spirits world to not be fooled by the happy-go-lucky social media sharing; everything looks easier then it seems, even the stuff that looks impossible. But (there’s always a but!) – the moment when you start to realize your dream is becoming a reality is unlike anything else. It’s deep, exciting and can rock you to the core. :)
Brenne has only been on the market for 18 months (which feels like 3yrs) and I realized on that Good Friday that I needed to cut myself some slack. (For example, in that very moment I was getting mad at myself for lying on the floor missing out on valuable work time – I’m my best critic!) My goals and dreams are big – really big, as are any entrepreneurs. And despite the fact that the things I’ve put in motion are, for the most part, farther ahead of where I thought they’d be at this point, it’s still no where near good enough for me and I was in a bit of shock at just how much work I need to do before I get to my next mountain peak.
And here’s where life get’s funny. There I was last Friday feeling like a baby ant in the world of the spirit giants and after spending some quality soul-revitalization time with Jack <@TheLiquortarian on twitter (which included grabbing a slice of pizza and visiting a few accounts together, naturally) this happened:
I decided to walk home after I departed ways with Jackie and popped into a great little store called The Wine Hut NYC along the way. As soon as the store was empty, I pulled out my bottle of Brenne Whisky and introduced myself to the man behind the counter, hoping to get an appointment with the buyer. The store manager looked at me and pointed to a shelf directly above him where Brenne was already sitting! Shocked I asked how he knew about it. He gave me a quizzical look and said matter of factly, “Well, it’s in all the magazines … how would someone not know about it?” (Ummm because I still don’t believe that my baby has sprouted wings!?!). Then 3 people approached the register with 2 bottles of wine and said, “we just need to add a bottle of whisky to our purchase.” Without missing a beat I said, “Oh! Get Brenne! Here!” and popped the cork from my bottle for them to smell & taste it. Without even asking the price – they grabbed a bottle and said, “yup, that’s our new favorite whisky!” I walked out feeling a little better.
The next day, I went up to the country for some much-needed fresh air and some quality time with my oldest friend.
On the drive to catch the train back to NYC, she suggested we pop into her local liquor store, saying that there was something she thought I’d want to see. Walking in, right there on the counter was a display of craft whiskies with Brenne front and center. Best part is she had nothing to do with it (with the exception of apparently doing a dance in the store the first time she and her husband saw it on the shelf!)!
It’s such a weird mix of feelings. I’m out there every day talking about Brenne and the people I meet rarely have heard of it prior to meeting me. But then, there are these incidents of learning about Brenne in places for which the sales had nothing to do with my direct facilitation. On one level I’m well aware that people are learning about Brenne far beyond my direct reach (thank goodness!) – but it’s a fantastic shift to have to alter my thinking (and therefore selling approach) from “absolutely no one I meet has ever hear about Brenne” to “some people may have heard of it!”
I felt like the arm floaties have been removed recently and I’m standing on the edge of the pool watching Brenne swim … not sink … and it feels incredible. Still so much work that needs to be done but at least it’s continuing to grow!
Thank you all for your amazing love & support as I keep trudging forward. Thank you, truly, for bearing with me!
The post I had been prepping for this week was a review of a particularly special night in LA where fellow blogger, Rob Gard of The Whisky Guy blog and author of the recently published “Distilling Rob” and I co-hosted a magical evening of story telling and whisky sipping. Thankfully, Aaron (guest writer on the It’s Just The Booze Dancing blog) just published this magnificent article re-caping the night in far better and more entertaining detail then I ever could! Click HERE to be taken to their awesome post!
February 10, 2014 § 3 Comments
My husband always says to me (in horror & shock) “You haven’t met an ice cream you don’t like!” And on our recent trip to Japan, neither the country’s explosion of wild flavors (think wasabi, cherry blossom, roasted tea, etc.) nor my ravenous search to seek out and try them all – sometimes twice a day- did anything to prove the contrary.
So you can imagine my pure delight when I received an email from Melissa Tavss, founder & CEO of Tipsy Scoop, asking if I’d like to give one of her booze-infused ice creams a try! (Clearly we had never met as anyone in my existing circle of friends wouldn’t have asked and just dropped off a sample instead). But as I skimmed her list of Valentine’s Day flavors, it looked like the offer got even better for there, in black and white, was tipsy whisky ice cream.
I quickly responded and asked specifically if it would be okay to try the “Deep Dark Chocolate Depression & Salted Caramel Whiskey Tears” (did I need to record a Lifetime movie to go along with this!?). Being made & sold in NYC, she delivered my sample in no time at all and it was time to get down to tasting business!
The sample was delivered in the early afternoon packed nicely in a cute Tipsy Scoop cloth insulator bag à la 90’s lunch-bag style, 2 postcards & a very large, flexible ice pack – all of which went directly into my freezer, postcards and all.
On the rare occasion, my husband and I will pull out our at-home ice cream maker and whip up a batch of something fun – learning early on that a couple of tablespoons of hard liquor will keep the desert from fully freezing and thus, making a more elegant, creamy and easy-to-scoop texture. One of our favorite combos has always been grapefruit sorbet with Campari – yum! Knowing that my at-home version yields nice texture and a hint of flavor (and I don’t remember ever feeling the effects of the alcohol), I was curious to see how Tipsy Scoop would balance the non-freezing aspect of the booze with the bigger-then-a-hint of its flavor.
7hrs later after my sample was delivered, I prepped my palate for review & my counter for proper photos and excitedly removed the parcel from my freezer, quickly arranging the items for a photo before opening the lid & starting my “research” …
(Naturally, I poured myself a glass of Brenne – one I thought I’d enjoy soon after writing my tasting notes when I moved on to the pure enjoyment part of ice cream consumption…however)
…upon opening the lid, I had a bit of a problem; it wasn’t frozen at all. :(
I popped the container back into the freezer (this time it went in just on its own, sans bag & ice pack and right next to my ice trays) checking on it again after about an hour. It was better but still needed more time. So I waited until about another 30-45 minutes and we had a texture that was much better:
TASTE: creamy vanilla, a hint of caramel, chocolate … with a kick! Holy moley, it tasted like Frozen Bailey’s (which makes sense; whisky + chocolate + cream … it’s kinda their thing!).
TEXTURE: The soup-debacle aside, the ice cream itself had a nice texture but not as silky as I might have liked. It melted quickly (due to the high alcohol content) causing all of the chocolate bits to fall to the bottom. I prefer having chewable things in my ice cream (chocolate chips, nuts, etc) but it’s key that they are scattered evenly throughout the layers.
WHISKEY: I enjoyed having the whisky folded into the ice cream – Tipsy Scoop was definitely generous with the booze and it makes for a really fun (albeit adult-only) scoop.
Upon further research (okay, more like reading her website while sipping on that glass of Brenne waiting for my sample to firm up), I learned that she has a family heritage of ice cream making & shop ownership in Scotland! And it was this wise, 4th generation ice cream designer who brought the cream+sugar together with the water of life. Not. Too. Shabby.
SUMMARY: I love the idea, love the creative flavor combinations and the cute packaging. I had a problem with the melting which could have been something that happened to my batch only or perhaps I should have removed the sample from the insulated bag & ice pack it was delivered with and just stored it in my freezer by itself. I do think this makes for an awesome Valentine’s Day experience and while $45 for 3 pints of ice cream seems quite high for ice cream – if (for New Yorkers especially) you think that it equals $15/pint which we readily spend on a single cocktail – it may be justifiable for a special occasion.
Wishing you all the happiest of Valentine’s Days .. for those of you not in New York City (and thus unable to get a Tipsy Scoop delivery at this time), perhaps you’ll whip up your own versions for the big day of love? I would think that a little whisky mixed into the ice cream with a little more poured on top at time of consumption (á la affogato style) would be quite dreamy! Share your booze+ice cream combos below!
***And a very big THANK YOU to Melissa of Tipsy Scoop for giving me the delicious sample and trusting me with a review! It was great fun – you’re definitely on to something wonderful here. Congrats!***
January 7, 2014 § 9 Comments
With the record low temperatures we’re having, I thought there no better time then now to share some of my FAVORITE Hot Toddy recipes using Brenne whisky!
The classic Hot Toddy is made with hot water (tea optional), lemon, honey and either whiskey, brandy or rum. I like to kick it up a bit and use a more complex tea that I think would complement the specific aged spirit that I’ll be adding. And there’s definitely a correlation between us whisky geeks and our deep appreciation for fun teas!
Brenne is a much more fruit-forward, floral & creamy Single Malt which lends itself especially well to Toddy’s, particularly if you make them with black teas that hint of orange, vanilla, cinnamon, burnt sugar, lavender … you get the idea! Below are 2 of my favorite recipes but feel free to play around using different teas and reversing the garnishes!
BRENNE CHAI TODDY
- 4oz Brenne French Single Malt Whisky
- ½ cup hot tea made with Chai-spiced black tea
- 1 tbs honey
- 1 thick slice of orange
- Cloves (to stick into the side of the orange wheel, as many as desired)
BRENNE ORANGE TEA TODDY
- 4oz Brenne French Single Malt Whisky
- ½ cup hot tea made with orange pekoe black tea
- 1 tbs honey
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1-3 star anise
- Wide lemon peel (to garnish)
*Also try these two Brenne Toddy’s with opposite garnishes and spices!*
Now that we’ve established the recipes, let’s break down the (VERY EASY) steps! While you’re reading, go ahead and put the kettle on the stove and start bringing the water up to boil … And we’re off!
HOW TO MAKE A HOT TODDY
- Pull together all of your ingredients while the water is heating up.
- In your favorite heat-proof drinking vessel, pour about 1/2 cup of hot water over your desired tea. Let steep for a few minutes while you work on your garnishes (poking cloves into your orange slice, carefully peeling that extra long wide lemon peel, etc)
- Remove the tea and add the honey – stirring to mix
- Pour in the whisky
- Relax and enjoy!
Share your favorite Hot Toddy recipes below or with me on twitter! @whiskygirls