November 28, 2012 § 3 Comments
First – please tweet and re-tweet this. It’s extremely important!
As many of you know, my beloved New York City & the surrounding areas were recently hit very badly with Hurricane Sandy. Personally, we were without power, heat & cell towers for 5 days. Business came to a screeching halt and I’ve been trying to re-coup ever since. My 101yr old grandmother’s beach cottage on the NJ Shore was completely destroyed. What’s left of the roof is being held up almost entirely by one single 2×4. The bed pushed through the structure and is sitting partially on the street, the couch is in whatever is left in her tiny kitchen. The home will have to be leveled and there were very few mementos that were salvageable. It may sound “fancy” to say that this was our family’s modest vacation home but anyone who owns property knows the kind of investment that is and the kind of sacrifices you do to make that happen. The little money my Grandparents saved during their years working as a school teacher (her) and an insurance sales man (him) they invested in this humble property with the intention of passing it down through the generations. Like my father, I spent my childhood summers there with my sisters and cousins and it’s a place our family retired to every chance we had.
Our home BEFORE the storm:
Our home AFTER Hurricane Sandy
But as sad and as hard as the recovery will be for my family – we didn’t even get hit with the worst of it. There are many people who lost their permanent homes or who couldn’t return to their homes for weeks due to flooding and unsafe conditions. These people were living in the shelters set up in the NYC public schools. The conditions were terrible – it was not like a ‘forced camping vacation’ by any stretch of the imagination. Many more people were stranded for weeks inside their apartments – especially the elderly and disabled – who couldn’t climb the 5, 12, 15 or more flights of stairs to get in or out of their apartments. They were stranded with no running water, no way to flush their toilets, no heat or food.
There are many recovery efforts underway but you all know how this typically goes … it’s hard for the money to get to the people who really need it.
Not this time! The whisky community of NYC has rallied together with the amazing leadership of Robin Robinson, the wonderful brand ambassador of Compass Box to unselfishly put together a benefit: a combination 2hr whisky tasting and auction to raise money for the incredible Tunnel2Towers organization.
Here’s the info on the tasting portion of the evening
Here’s the info on the INCREDIBLE list of whiskies available at the auction
Just LOOK at that list!!!!! There are some bottles that will be available for auction that are rarely, if ever, available anywhere else in the world. People have dug down deep into their private collections to donate some truly remarkable whiskies.
We need to continue to rally. This is going down THIS SUNDAY
4-6pm @ Astor Wines & Spirits
399 Lafayette St. , (at E 4th), NY, NY 10003
I’ll be there pouring Brenne! It’s only $25 to enter and enjoy what will be an incredible 2 hour tasting & auction event. Come one, come all! Support the rebuilding of the greater New York area!
Please share this with anyone you may think might be interested in attending. (And seriously, when else can you attend a whisky tasting event in NYC like this one for only $25?!?)
With love and many thanks,
November 9, 2012 § 20 Comments
This morning, after hanging with 2 incredibly beautiful and also incredibly “geeky” whisky women, I started laughing to myself as I thought about our conversations last night. I can only imagine what non-whisky people may have thought if they had overheard the three of us rattling on with exuberance about every aspect of whisky production. Realizing that some may think we’re a bit ‘strange’ but knowing that we are certainly not alone, I write this post for YOU. My fellow “whisky geeks”
You know you’re a “Whisky Geek” when…
10) All of your tweets end with #whisky AND #whiskey
9) You’ve taken tasting notes again when at a busy, packed bar because you MUST remember what you’re experiencing! (insert eye-roll from spouses & friends everywhere)
8) You know from memory what type of oak all of your favorite whiskies have been in and for how long
7) You know what type of flavors specific varietals of oak attribute to whisky
6) You probably spend the first 5 -10 minutes just nosing your glass before even taking your first sip
5) You consider being called a “whisky geek” a very high compliment
4) You can pantomime with ease the different shapes of stills with your hands
3) You can drink a whisky blindly and guess correctly its age within a year or two up or down
2) You’re heart starts racing with excitement at the thought of talking “yeast strains”
1) You actually use this phrase to describe a whisky: “the ester profile is…”
November 7, 2012 § Leave a comment
The day before yesterday, Monday Nov 5th, was the first day the New York Tri-State area felt like it was starting to get back to work post-Hurricane Sandy. And it felt great. Just like the old saying: you never know how much you love/need something until it’s not there. Well, I need to work! 🙂
After a full day, I was ready to happily dedicate my night to my now over-full inbox and various social media platforms. I started by skimming through comments on this blog and saw one that I thought for a moment might be spam. It read:
From: Bonnie Berko
Date: November 5, 2012
Allison, listen for your shout out at the end of PTI today! Send more product!
In hindsight I can’t see how I ever thought this was spam but in that moment and in the context of a whisky blog, I didn’t know what “PTI” was, nor who Bonnie Berko is (sorry Bonnie!), nor knew what “send more product” really meant. More?! When did I ever send her any Brenne?
Thanks to google for quickly clearing this up for me. Bonnie Berko is the producer of ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption show with Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon – which is one of the top shows on ESPN. Feeling confused and excited, I quickly tuned in and caught the end of the show with Tony calling out my name.
huh? shock. giggle. breathe. question. smile. belly laugh.
Something like 3 million people tune in to PTI nightly. I put my computer on my lap and watched in awe as tweets, g-chats, facebook messages, etc from friends, acquaintances and total strangers started coming in. What does one do when that happens? Well, if you’re me, you slide off the couch and have yourself a little impromptu dance party!
Then I put the pieces together. A very enthusiastic friend bought a case (6 bottles) of Brenne the week it launched. I then find out that he sent a few bottles down to Tony Kornheiser who proceeded to mention it on his other ESPN show: The Tony Kornheiser Show. Then he mentioned it again … and again.
And then Tony gives me, “Allison Patel, Whisky Woman” a shout-out on Pardon the Interruption!
ESPN PTI Episode 11/5/12 … go to around minute 22:25 for Tony’s shout out
So Tony, if you’re reading, here’s my shout-out back to you. THANK YOU for liking Brenne French Single Malt whisky and for continuing to share your thoughts with your audiences. I sincerely appreciate it. One person can make a difference. You’re awesome.
#DreamComingTrue Go Small Business!
November 1, 2012 § 9 Comments
I struggled with where to begin this post because this has surely been the strangest month of my life. It started with the successful launch of my own whisky, Brenne, which while I planed it for over a year, I quickly realized that you can never really be ready for what happens … (foreshadowing?) nothing could have prepared me for the speed at which I would zoom through life from Oct 1st right on through to the end of the month where suddenly, life came to a screeching halt with the presence of Hurricane Sandy.
I’ve lived in Manhattan for just short of a decade. I joke that I came out of the womb saying, “Sorry Mom, but I’ve got to go to New York!” To say that I love New York is a vast understatement. I love NY. I am NY. My identity is here, my life is here, my friends & family are here (or are close enough that most past through quite often). I love the pulse, the energy and also the community that is New York City. So naturally, when events happen that change the beat, I admire and jump in as New Yorkers rally to help, protect, and support each other and our city.
During my time here, I’ve lived through a few landmark events, including the Black Out of ’03, the Transit Strike of ’05, and Hurricane Irene ’11. The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy to me feels like a combination of all three on steroids. Four days in, we still have no heat, cell towers or power and based on the latest reports it looks like we have another 2 more days to go until the electricity comes back on. Many subways are still under water and the trees that used to line the cement below my window have either been stripped bare, cracked in half or totally uprooted.
(Below is my corner after 3 hours of clean up work had already taken place Tuesday morning. During the storm, I watched a tree beat an air conditioning unit out of my neighbors window. Violent winds.)
Walking around the West Village, Soho and Tribeca on Tuesday, October 30th, the day after Sandy tore through NY & NJ, I couldn’t believe how much the city looked both like itself and not at all. The buildings still stood in their original positions, the roads were still there, most of the signs and traffic lights were swinging in their places – except there was a dark gray feeling of doom that weighed heavily on everything. In our 1hour walk around our neighborhood I can’t tell you how many hoses I saw emptying streams of water onto the sidewalks from the depths of basements and even lobby’s. It seemed like every 5 blocks or so there was another street closed as brave workers carefully & quickly broke down tens of thousands of feet of scaffolding 10, 18, 20 stories high that had been pulled away from the buildings during the storms – or worse – had pulled building off with it and crashed to the sidewalk below during the night.
Cold and wet, we turned our faces into the wind and rounded another corner as the rain temporarily let up, this time walking into a moment that filled us with happiness and light. A tiny bodega run by three energetic guys who had made it to their shop flipped their metal NYTimes New Stand upside down, set a charcoal stove on top and got to work making hot coffee right there on the side walk. They were so happy, shouting gaily that they had fresh coffee, cream & sugar for $2. But let me tell you with that money, you weren’t only buying piping hot caffeinated warmth, you were also buying a piece of social connectivity. The ConEd (electric company) workers joined in, the fire men pulled a hook & ladder right in front and instead of shutting them down, got in line. Locals and displaced tourists started huddling around and for the next few minutes, we connected, smiled, and knew this was just another one of those moments in New York’s history that we will not only live through but thrive from.
When the power first went out – everyone in my building entered the dark hallways, checked on neighbors and hosted impromptu “black out dinner parties.” Kids made shadow puppets on the walls with their hands and flashlights, the adults broke into their wine stocks, and more and more neighbors realized just how big our whisky collection really is. 😛
(This is about 2/3rd of the collection at best)
It’s like stepping back in time every night as we gather around our battery powered radio and walk through our apartment using only candles to light our way (you have to save your batteries/flashlights for the stairwell and streets! Stores -if even open- are out of batteries for miles!). Last night, I got a little annoyed as Mayor Bloomberg reminded us over the airwaves to dial 311 is for downed trees, 911 for emergency and an 800# for FEMA. All I could think was, “that’s all lovely … if only we could actually make calls!” If we have an emergency now, I will need to run down 5 pitch-black flights of stairs onto an equally dark street and go to my nearest police or fire station. That’s not the most comforting of thoughts … But luckily, we have our lives, our health, our neighbors and our city. Our building has never smelled better with all of the scented candles burning practically 24 hours a day. And I am so thankful that everyone I know is safe, dry and have a roof over their heads. There were many who were not so lucky.
On Wednesday, we learned that my husband’s office in midtown had power, internet, hot water and best of all, cell coverage! We were able to get a ride up and spent the day catching with with family, friends and of course, work. I looked out his window and saw “The Crane” dangling & swaying in the breeze …
It was well into the night before we got transportation to take us back home but it was a drive that I will never forget. We started at the edge of Central Park going down 5th Avenue. The shops brightly lit the sky and we watched as the New York pre-Sandy seemed to be coming back to life. People were packed on the sidewalks going in and out of stores and restaurants, life seemed to be buzzing all around us.
And then we crossed 34th street.
It was as if we had crossed over into apocalyptic New York. It was black; pitch black. Not a street light or building gave any indication of their whereabouts. There was hardly anyone out on the streets – despite it being Halloween – and only the occasional taxi. It felt eery. And a bit scary. In a “Hollywood movie you can almost hear the depressing orchestral music” kind of scary. We made it back to our very dark building and climbed the pitch-black stairwell past our floor to our roof. We needed to see this on a grander scale. There before us were the shadowed outlines of buildings who make up the Manhattan skyline. The Empire State building clearly marking the end of “dark, apocalyptic, New York” and the beginning of “bright, shiny, vibrant New York.” We live in the “dry & dark” part of the city. But even below us, there is a city that is still underwater. I’ve heard people talking about the “3 New York’s” right now – all unique, all real, all extremely different from each other, and yet all connected by miles of concrete and asphalt. To travel from one end to another is a totally surreal experience.
We, like so many others, lost our family’s beach cottage on the New Jersey shore that my 101 year old Grandma bought for the family decades ago. I spent my childhood summers there just like my dad and his cousins. It is sad, of course. But nothing is as serious as loosing a life. As my Grandmother told me just today, “Walls can be rebuilt, the memories we have will stay with us forever.”
Photo credit: I did not take the flooded subway station photo. It was shared by a friend on Facebook.
I snapped the above photo of my TV right before the power went out Monday night. This was being filmed in lower Manhattan. Moments before we watched a huge piece of metal float behind him. He was saying that he was standing just a few blocks from “the bull” – an incredible sight.
I wish you all a safe, healthy, and warm start to November.
Apologies if I don’t respond quickly to comments – I will be back online as soon as I can.