January 22, 2015 § 11 Comments
Running your own business (no matter the industry) is an extremely humbling experience. Every day I metaphorically climb mountains and hike through strange new lands – each time requiring that I quickly learn the local dialect, customs and culture. Good thing I love to dance & am quick on my feet!
As a solopreneur working extremely hard to build awareness of my Brenne Whisky, I have found a bit balance this past year by running regularly and meditating (the inspirations for which I share often on my personal Instagram page). When I take stock of where things are with Brenne at the moment, I’m simply elated. By November 2013, we were available in 4 States around the USA. By November 2014, Brenne was available in 28. TWENTY-EIGHT!!!!! That’s an average of 2 states per month consistent growth over the course of 12 month. And we just opened Maine this week. The wider availability of Brenne in the US market coupled with the showering of amazing press of even just the last handful of weeks(!!) (Forbes, CBS Morning Show, Men’s Health, Boston Globe, Men’s Journal, NY Observer!!!) confirms for me that I’m on the right path.
If we’re friends on Facebook, you’ve probably tired of my “OMG, ___x___ Magazine just wrote about me/Brenne!” posts. (Sorry). I try not to do that too many times but I do want to share, shout out & give thanks for those in the press who have taken the time to share my story. Yet last week – just 7 days ago – I was in a prestigious restaurant in NYC and the after tasting Brenne, the head bartender looked up at me and said with a genuine smile on his face, “It’s really different, in a good way … Has anyone written about it yet? I mean, in the media? That would probably help bring some awareness to what you’re doing.”
Internally, I was laughing and shaking my head in disbelief. Externally, I thanked him for the advice, mentioned a few of the recent articles we’ve received but ultimately, was grateful that clearly he liked Brenne enough to try and offer his two cents as to how I could grow my business.
There is always more work to do, however, I feel that the U.S. finally has the beginnings of a great foundation. We’re growing steadily (thanks to many of you!!!!) and I have lots of hopes for this year ahead, including the release of something extremely special, super limited and, in my humble opinion, ridiculously delicious coming to you this Fall. …Yup, you’ll want to stay tuned!
In the mean time, one more lucky country is about to get Brenne … Who you ask? I’ll be back soon with the details!
So as we near the end of the first of only 12 months in what I expect to be another year of fleeting, albeit beautiful moments, I raise my glass to you: Cheers to you, your friends, families and drinking buddies. I hope 2015 is a year filled with special experiences, love and plenty of great whisky.
October 16, 2013 § 15 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.**
January 9, 2013 § 7 Comments
ABS. Always. Be. Selling. You’re probably more familiar with “ABC” (Always Be Closing) which works great in both the business & dating scenes but I like to believe the original version to be “ABP” as in “Always Be Pimping.” And if any of you have had the pleasure of spending even a second of time with Compass Box Whisky’s phenomenal US Ambassador, Robin Robinson (@CompassBoxRobin on twitter) you may have heard him utter this phrase once or twice.
For sales people like us, it’s hysterical, and true. Always Be Pimping Your Brand. And for someone like me who oozes with excitement at the smallest opportunity to share my passion (Brenne, duh!) with anyone, “always” has a truly literal meaning.
The other day I had a very minor procedure which required me to be temporarily put to sleep. If anyone has had anesthesia before, you may agree that it’s a bit of a mind game. One minute you hear the anesthesiologist saying, “Ok, you’re going to start to feel the effects of the medicine….” to then waking up (minutes? hours?) later in a room you’ve probably never seen before with people dashing by your bed and most certainly the unpleasant sound of someone moaning in the background. But while you try to confirm that you still have all of your fingers & toes before you’re knocked out again in another wave of medicinally induced sleep (that stuff takes a while to wear off!) you have these movie-like snap-shot moments that you start recalling after the medicine has fully run its course.
The first time I woke up, all I remember saying was, “I was drinking wine with my husband in Tuscany…” To which someone asked, “Have you ever been?” And I simply said “No” before falling back asleep. The next time I woke up, however, the ABS train was in full throttle. I became aware of this as my eyes focused on the activity the rest of my body was engaged in: Orchestrating a full-court press of just how perfect my whisky was for all of the nurses! And what surprised me most, was that I became aware of this in the MIDDLE of writing “www.DrinkBrenne.com” on a prescription pad with a scribbled note that read, “My whisky, it’s great!”
Yup. In my drugged out, 1/2 conscious state, I was selling my whisky to any nurse who came near me! Ridiculous. And people think alcohol is addictive? Try sales. I’m hooked!
January 2, 2013 § 18 Comments
Yup. Survived captures exactly what I’m feeling right now. I actually woke up this morning with a little extra spring in my step (though I do feel inclined to mention that my NYE partying is still taking its toll on my head & I’m sure my liver thus my “springing step” is more of a sloth-like meandering around my office which compared to yesterday, is a massive improvement). I am just so excited that we made it through in one piece!
2012 was a big one for me. My husband and I bought, renovated & moved into our new apartment and I launched my whisky, Brenne, with what I can only describe as incredible success (thanks LARGELY to the continued sharing, tasting, buying & chatting about by you all) despite having Hurricane Sandy shut us down for arguably the 2 most important selling weeks in the year.
Whisky inventory management is a whole different ball game than any other commodity I’ve ever managed. The lead-time is years. To know how much whisky to create in the first place is a major guessing game (how does anyone really know how well their spirit will sell almost 10 years from the day the process is started?). Then once you have a spirit that has aged as long as you think creates the balanced profile you are looking for – it’s entirely your call as to when to pull the barrels, how many to bottle, and – in my case – how much to put on a boat and wait patiently for it to travel 1/2 way around the world (all the while you’re barely sleeping as the nightmares of a tsunami or freak storm or anything damaging all of those years of hard work and money keep you up in nervous sweats — and yes, whisky is now looked at as ‘years’ verses simply a ‘product’).
To say I really had no idea how much whisky I could/would sell between October 1st and December 31st is a gross understatement. I spent about 2 years market testing Brenne in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco while asking nearly every bar tender I had ever met how many bottles of any particular brand of whisky they sell through per month (usually the answer was this: “vodka and gin I go through multiple bottles a night, whisky you say? About 1 bottle per brand per month. Why don’t you want to make vodka instead? You’ll make more money”) Yikes. This wasn’t a “get rich quick” business for me – I’ve been building this out of my love for whisky, my passion for the influence & effect terroir plays on the aging product, and the impact that true craftsmanship can have on such an amazing spirit!
Still, I had the number I was looking for (1 bottle per brand per month … that’s 1 case a year per account -or 2 cases if you do 6 bottle cases like I do). That seemed really low and a little upsetting – after hearing that from a lot of people I do remember running the numbers and thinking, “I can never do this!!! How does anyone make any kind of living off of whisky? Should I just fold this up now? No one will ever know! We can sell this in bulk to someone else and let it be someone else’s headache. We’re too small a company to compete!” But my husband kept encouraging me to move forward and something deep inside of me agreed. Knowing that a new brand (and one from a “new” country) would need to be hand-sold by bartenders & shop keepers, I had to figure that my product would take even longer to move through on the shelves. Which meant I really needed to buckle down, create a very focused plan for launching Brenne, and go back to our college days of living off of the cheapest food I could find. We are in this for the long haul!
After much analyzing of whatever data I could get my hands on – my husband and I agreed to bring in a small amount of Brenne to start. Mind you, we were only selling this in New York and even then, only focusing on a few areas within the Manhattan area so I really had my work cut out for me to launch this with any type of success. There were a lot of days leading up to our launch that I thought, “I could pull the cord on this now, I don’t HAVE to move forward, no one is forcing me and again … no one will ever know! – I kept Brenne quiet for years, there was no need to change that! ” Which I knew was all fear talking so again, I kept moving forward.
Then one day you turn the corner and realize that with one more step, you’re jumping off the cliff and there is no turning back. The future is most certainly unclear but once this step is made – it’s seriously GO time. I happily & nervously danced my way right over the edge. Major decision making became as regular a part of my day as my morning coffee. And with never having done this before in this industry, I’ll be the first to admit there was a lot of “follow your gut” guess work. There still is! You do the best with what you have and then, you just keep moving forward.
If I didn’t launch October 1st, I knew I would have had to hold it until January 1 (this week!) as it’s impossible to launch anything new during November and December. So I did it – pounding the pavement, knocking on doors, hand selling this to every single account who would take an appointment with me. I didn’t launch this with a distributor – I decided to distribute it myself – and I was SHOCKED with just how well Brenne has been received.
That number of “12 bottles of whisky per brand a year per account” was grossly underestimated. I have one bar going through about 12 bottles a WEEK! I have stores on multi-case bi-monthly ordering schedules and the initial quantity which I assumed would supply many unique account was satisfied by only a relatively small handful. Brenne was definitely exceeding the “12 bottles per year per account*” estimate and I woke up each day with more excitement, confidence, humility and gratitude then I have ever felt.
So after what can only be described as a marathon of tasting events this holiday season, I woke up today alive and happy. And started to arrange for my next few pallets of product to be loaded up from our distillery in Cognac and brought over to the US. There is still a TON of hard work ahead and many, many long days but if these first 3 months with Brenne are any indication of our future, then I can not WAIT to keep moving forward and see where were are this time next year.
And just to leave you with a little something – I did ring in the New Year with my husband and dear friends at the very cool new NYC whiskey bar, The Flatiron Room, which I will blog about next time!
I hope you all have a safe, healthy, and wonderful start to 2013! HAPPY NEW YEAR!
*Just clarifying for those who really like to get down to the nitty-gritty, the “12 bottles per account per year” was based off of no published statistics but rather gathered by myself by simply speaking with bar tenders around the USA. Also, the type of account I’m referring to with these numbers are only for on-premise (meaning a bar, restaurant or lounge).
December 4, 2012 § 11 Comments
I don’t know about you but I sometimes find my days so nuts that if I don’t zero in and take it one detailed piece at a time than I think I would look at the whole day, become so overwhelmed I’d throw up my hands and fold. Perhaps crawling into whichever hole was closest (which, this being NYC, would probably be a subway station …).
As an aside, please accept my apologies now for any and all unanswered emails, tweets, comments, posts, etc. I THANK YOU for staying with me despite my slight disappearing act from this blog.
But you don’t come here to hear me lament about how ‘busy’ I am – we are ALL busy. Especially this month. And in the whirlwind that is my life – I often step back and think about my fellow bloggers & whisky enthusiasts in awe. How do you all do it!? How do you continually publish quality, well written and well researched posts that are both educational and entertaining on a regular basis!?
When I started this blog, I set a goal for myself of posting one article a week and I think I did a pretty good job of keeping to that until October 1 of this year when I launched my own whisky. And then as soon as the 1st month of Brenne’s introduction in the market was coming to a close, we got hit badly by hurricane Sandy. And then as soon as we dusted ourselves off, flicked the light switch on (& actually got light!) and hit the ground running, we ran into Thanksgiving and kicked off the always-busy holiday season.
So there I am; blinders on, bulldozing through the minutes, hours, days and weeks with time whizzing by faster than ever that I found myself Sunday evening happily standing behind a table pouring Brenne (Estate Cask, barrel #261) at the amazing whisky event Robin Robinson put together to benefit Hurricane Sandy victims.
Standing there talking to one wonderful whisky lover after another, I spotted the ever familiar white Corsair logo against a black T-shirt peaking through the crowd coming my way. My eyes quickly glanced up from the T-shirt to the wearer of said tee and realized that it was Darek Bell (co-founder & distiller of Corsair Artisan Distillery). Darek and I have crossed paths at many events and I could definitely pick him out of a line up (watch out, Darek!) but we had never before had the opportunity to spend more than a minute conversing until then.
It didn’t take us long at all to jump right into full whisky geek talk (and I love being in the company of true geeky distillers like Derek, there is so much for me to learn and as soon as he started asking me questions about our still configuration – I felt like it was my birthday!) And then he said it, those words you hope you never hear but, whenever you truly expose yourself – like an artist at his debut or an author publishing her book – you have to be ready for: “Allison, I do, however, have one complaint. ” Eek! Sound the alarm! Brace yourself! Wait. No. Calm yourself. Listen & learn. Ok, you can do this. …. “Oh yea? What’s that Darek?” “Ever since you launched Brenne, you’ve kinda ignored your blog.”
Huh? That’s the complaint? You A) read it B) noticed my fewer post publications and C) cared enough to mention it? I’m FLATTERED! I feel the redness leave my face (in the anticipation of a different kind of complaint) and I smile broadly … and somewhat quizzically. Reading my expression, Darek then said, “Yes Allison, people do read your blog and frankly, I like your take on things.”
As I drifted off to sleep the night before last, I was thinking about my backlog of whisky posts. The events that I have been wanting to share with you, the unique whiskies I’ve been buying up as I travel from one whisky store to another hand selling Brenne, the people I have met and the amazing whiskey-based cocktail creations I have experienced. And how I have been getting to the end of my Sunday evenings thinking, “Oh crap, I missed another week … now my post will be too dated.” But last night as I thought about this, I also remembered one of my favorite aspects of whisky; it’s a true art of time. My whisky that is aging in barrels is constantly reminding me that no matter how hard I work or how quickly I move from one thing to the next, the whisky everyone around the world is distilling today still won’t be ready any faster. We all still have to wait years, a decade or even longer until we can pour into our glasses what is being now being distilled through copper vessels. With that in mind, I was thinking how I love that whisky takes so long to age and then stops abruptly as soon as it enters a bottle, almost as if that glass frame is the spirit’s own time-capsule. Perhaps then too, these posts that I have been worried about being just a bit too old will, like our whiskies, get a little better with age and then once they launch themselves into a published post only then do they stop changing, or rather ‘aging’. Perhaps that is a little too philosophical for some of you but I’m sticking to it. 🙂
And until I dust off those recent memories and commit them here, I leave you with this; THANK YOU. Thank you Darek for giving me a bit of a kick in the you-know-what to log back in and continue the conversation. Thanks to all of you who have stuck with me and continue subscribing even as my posts have become less regular. And the biggest Thank You to all of you who have not only stayed with me but picked up my slack! Your comments, emails, tweets, re-blogs, and perhaps most importantly, your own personal blog posts mentioning me and/or Brenne have simply made me speechless (… almost 😉 ). I can’t thank you all enough. It’s super fun to get to know you and talk about one of our favorite topics together!!!
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!