What’s in a name; how we came up with ‘Brenne’

January 25, 2013 § 7 Comments

Y’all have spoken!  I asked, you answered, more in-depth, narrative stories about my journey launching Brenne, please! I’ll certainly sprinkle in posts about other whiskey-related things I experience or am excited about as I bounce along in 2013, but you’re going to also get a little more of an inside look into the good, bad, fun & ugly of launching a whisky brand.

So here we go!


As you go about your day, you probably don’t think too much about who, how, where & when the names of items we use regularly started.  Apple, Samsung, Starbucks …they’re part of our daily vernacular!  But someone (or many people) at one point spent lots of time & probably lots of money to do just that: name a brand.

I haven’t written too much about my husband, Nital, but he is easily one of the most intelligent men I have ever met.  And when not brainstorming business strategies with me, he’s off using his smarts to re-brands some of the top companies around the world.  Many times, this includes putting together a strategy to create a name for a brand.  After watching him go through this process a hundred times before, I knew what would be involved in developing the name of our whisky… and with all of his expertise, it still took us 6 months!

We didn’t start by just throwing words down on paper (though there was definitely a LOT of that later on!) but instead started with him asking me a ton of questions like, is this going to be a made-up name or a word that already exists?  If it exists, in what language? Does it sing or is it short? What feelings does it evoke? And so on and so forth.

Here’s what I knew I wanted:

  1. 1 or 2 syllables (I kept putting myself as a customer trying to order it at a loud bar, what would someone be able to “yell” easily? What would sound good in a cocktail if it were to be mixed? What would sound pleasing to the ear as I presented it at tasting event after tasting event?)
  2. I wanted something that looked & sounded French but wasn’t overwhelmingly complicated to a non-French speaking person so that it wasn’t intimidating (there was an amazing study that came out by Olive Garden about having a gnocchi dish on their menu.  It was not selling well at all but before pulling it, they decided to try listing it instead as “potato dumplings” rather than “gnocchi” incredibly enough, with that name switch, it quickly rose to become one of their top sellers.  What’s in a name you ask? Everything.
  3. I felt that the name had to have a connection to the wonderful product that had such a rich story – I wanted the name to be a part of that, to feel a part of the product’s history.

So with that (and a whole lot more) we set about creating list after list of possible names.  We wrote them EVERYWHERE ALL OF THE TIME.  Cocktail napkins, word docs, our kitchen chalk board wall … we had scribbled names everywhere for months. No surface was safe!

While sadly, I can’t remember the exact way I first connected with my distiller, I CAN remember EVERY DETAIL of the moment “Brenne” happened.

I was in Los Angeles at the time and my husband was in New York City.  He had waited all morning for me to wake up as LA is 3 hours behind NYC.  At 8am LA time he called me and said, “Did you see my email?!” Being that checking my email while simultaneously saying hi to my husband are the first things of most mornings, I was already adjusting my eyes to the screen.  At the same time I opened his email, he said it out loud. “Brreeenne” he cooed. Brenne …. brrreenne … like ‘men’ or ‘hen’ … Brrrreeennnne … I rolled it around in my mouth like sampling a beautiful dram, Brenne.  It was perfect! It condensed all of the feelings, emotions, sounds & meanings we had been beating to death into one, tiny, single-syllable word.  And he did it by finally finding the right combination of the right French word whose meaning is applicable to whisky mixed with a twist on our distiller’s family name. Done!

Next step – is it available? This is the part that always puts butterflies in my stomach.  After all of this work, to hear a word and know in your gut it’s right it would be so painful to learn that you can’t get it.  And in today’s fast-moving world, it’s not enough to just be available with Trademarks, but you also need your web addresses, twitter handle, Facebook, etc.! The frantic, pre-coffee search commenced.  Trademarks? From what we could tell, check!  (though this is not a fast process – it took months to finally learn that it was approved but initial results looked to be in our favor). Web addresses? Check. Twitter? Check.  I tried to calm myself down, “don’t get too excited, Allison, this is step one in a long, lengthy and expensive Trademark and design processes!” But I knew it had to be mine – it was so right I felt like it’s been called Brenne all along!

You already know the happy ending to this story – we got the name.  And after setting up my google alerts, I learned that a few more things in far-away lands also use that name 🙂 but nothing damaging, comparable, or problematic in any way, shape or form.


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§ 7 Responses to What’s in a name; how we came up with ‘Brenne’

  • G-LO says:

    So it’s kind of like coming up with the name for a child, but with the added hassle of having to worry about copyright and trademark infringement. The name has to, for lack of a better word, fit. I’d say you and hubbie did a great job. And I like to think we did a pretty good job with the naming of our sons. Their names fit their personalities perfectly.

    • Haha, exactly! And we took about the same number of months to figure it out! 🙂 Thanks for the props. It’s funny how things & people (and pets, for that matter) really do seem to grow into their names.

      Thanks again!

  • Susannah SB says:

    Time to update the Wikipedia page, then.


    (Check out the last bullet point!)

  • Josh Feldman says:

    Very cool story, Allison. So, where did Nital get it from? It’s a region in France, and a national park. But I suspect there is more to it than that.

    • You are correct, Josh. After months and months of lists, it was the adaptation of a French word we had written down at one point blended together with a twist on our distiller’s name. Funny though, when we went back to research the definition of this word, it wasn’t quite what we had initially scribbled down! lol We do like, however, that afterwards we realized that the word “Brenne” does have some connections to France (beyond being a word that had also come together in Nital’s mind) which you mentioned above.

      I imagine it’s much like what G-LO said about naming a child. You go through so many names, lists upon lists, and then all of the sudden, you find yourself saying one over and over again and just know it’s right. It’s a very funny & personal process!

      • Josh Feldman says:

        It’s a lovely name. I’m working on the wiki article, the tribute web site with cask by cask tasting notes. And I’m considering getting the logo tattooed to my forearm…

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