#BrenneVoyage … get ready

June 27, 2014 § 7 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.

#BrenneVoyage! Cheerio old mate!

#BrenneVoyage! Cheerio old mate!

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” …

Clickedy click!

Clickedy click!

Hey Brenne, can you give us a little more shoulder action?

Hey Brenne, can you give us a little more shoulder action?

And below is a teaser of what’s to come …

Brenne hanging out at Pont Alexandre in Paris, France #BrenneVoyage

Brenne hanging out at Pont Alexandre in Paris, France #BrenneVoyage

 

Is it good luck to drop a bottle of whisky into the Fontaines de la Concorde!? #BrenneVoyage

Is it good luck to drop a bottle of whisky into the Fontaines de la Concorde!? #BrenneVoyage

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

You're truly!

Your’s truly!

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A Visit to Vendome – Still Makers

September 30, 2013 § 10 Comments

Last week marks the 2nd private tour I’ve had in my life of a custom still making facility.   The first happened 1.5 years ago in Scotland when I went with my good friend Chip (Chip Tate of Balcones) to tour Forsyths (click HERE to see that post).  The second happened again with Chip but this time in Kentucky, USA when he and I were in Louisville to receive our respective Icons of Whisky awards (personal plug: YAY!!!!!! GO BRENNE!!!!  That was such an exciting moment for me.  I shared the experience in a short blog post on my Brenne site HERE if you’re interested.  Also, HUGE congrats to all of the winners, including Chip who won Icon’s Craft Distiller of the Year for the 2nd time!).

Much to our surprise, after the awards ceremony, everyone – including many of the guys who actually live in Louisville – took off to various cities leaving Chip and I all by ourselves.   …This was not a problem 😉

We piled our things into a taxi and took off to Vendome.  Upon arrival, Gordon Lung, Vendome’s Project Manager, and the Shop Foreman greeted us with smiles and hard hats (ok, there weren’t hardhats this time as we arrived right after they stopped working for the day – but I was ready to suit-up Safety Style like I did at Forsyths!)

AllisonPatel_ChipTate

I can only guess that we looked a bit like a fancy clown car.  Chip – whom I’ve seen for years almost exclusively wearing his carhartts – was nicely dressed in a fitted suit and I in stilettos and a silk dress … just the perfect outfits to tour a massive metal-smith shop!  With our Icons awards and our caravan of cases & bags holding bottles of Balcones & Brenne safely in the shop, we jumped right into geek-heaven, talking about alloys, welding techniques, still shapes & sizes (of which there were MANY!) and all the time comparing the different techniques between the Vendome & Forsyths artists (and artists they are).

1_Vendome_Still

From what I understand, there are only 2 still manufacturers left in the world who create truly customized stills.  And Gordon is the man who takes a distiller’s visions from dreams into fully functioning stills.  He showed us one still that he completely engineered himself based off a single, 2 dimensional drawing with limited information on size & scale – a skill I so deeply admire and find nearly impossible to get my head around.

There are other still-making companies out there who have set sizes and shapes which people can piece together to “design” a still suited for their needs – but to go from the ground up with a unique concept to full completion – there is only Vendome & Forsythe.   Both of these shops are not open to the public, you’re not able to tour them as they are fully working facilities that keep our great distilleries functioning all year round.  However, both were extremely generous to not just take Chip and I around but also let me take a few photos to share with you here on my blog.  So it’s my honor and pleasure to be able to show you a small glimpse inside Vendome, a magical place from which many of our great American whiskies get their start.

*** Please respect the photos on this blog as they are all owned exclusively by Local Infusions.  If you re-blog or share, please reference my photos as “© Local Infusions” and link them back to my blog.  Thank you.***

2_Vendome_Still

3_Coils

4_Still_TopThe stainless steel oval “bubble” on the above still tops right side (left side when looking AT the photo) is a gin ‘basket’ – where you would fill with your botanicals and direct the distillate to run through that area as it came off the still rather than having it go up the main copper neck.

7_Welding_Helmut

I saw this welding helmet out of the corner of my eye and maneuvered through a particularly complicated area (only tricky for a heel-wearing person) to get this photo.  In a sea of black welding helmets, I just thought this mask is so bad a** – so American – so right to see in the middle of a Kentucky still making facility.

The next 3 photos are all related to one another.  This is a small section (<though massive in size) of one of our country’s largest whisky distiller’s column stills.  It’s kind of like looking at a cat-scan of the column, allowing us to see inside a section their rather HUGE stills.

8_JackDaniel_ColumnInside these columns are thousands of cross sections of tiny copper tubs, creating ample opportunity for the distillate to react with the metal.  The sheer size of this blew my mind.  I couldn’t even stand back enough to get a photo of this piece in its entirety and this is only a SMALL SECTION  of just one part of one still(!!!), which alone was bigger then a few of the full-size stills around the shop.

9_JackDaniel_ColumnAbove are the sections of copper tubing that fit together like puzzle pieces inside the column (below) to create horizontal “beds” of copper tubing to react with the distillate as it rises through the column.

10_JackDaniel_ColumnI took the below photo because we were discussing just how tall the columns are on these stills and Gordon said that they couldn’t fit standing upright in Vendome’s space but would have to be laid down (and take up a majority of the room below – crazy!).

5_Vendome_ShopBelow Gordon, Chip and I took turns knocking different areas of this particular piece of cooling copper to hear how the pitches change when the metal is at various temperature (the different colors also indicate the variety of temperatures of the metal).

6_Copper_Cooling

11_Top

12_Still_Handles

13_CopperCLEARLY these pieces are hand-made … I love seeing the hammer marks and “dings” (above) of an artist’s work in progress.  These will get smoothed out in time (below) but it’s quite beautiful to see stills in the making.

14_Vendome_Still

One of the things I love most about “whisky” is the people.  It takes an army to keep this industry moving forward and there is a real brotherhood/sisterhood about it.  Obviously everyone wants (& needs) to make money – but the majority of people who actually make the spirits and the stills are here because they really love it.   It’s a true honor to work in this industry and be able to share some of these inside moments with you here on my blog.  I THANK YOU for your support of my posts which keep me coming back to share and write more & more.

Feeling the Love: In the Midst of a 3-State Launch

May 3, 2013 § 7 Comments

To say I enjoy getting to know everyone who makes up the vast & ever-expanding whisky community would be an understatement, I love it.  It keeps me going & it’s often the best part of my day.

As many of you know, I launched my own whisky (Brenne) on October 1, 2012 and sold it exclusively in New York for the first 6 months.  However, on April 1, I did a 3 State roll-out and have been traveling around ever since, meeting a whole new wave of devoted whisky fans.

And it’s been awesome.

Brenne_Expanding

First, I thank everyone who has come out to support me at my events in Boston, MA and Chicago, IL and to all of you who live in Nashville, TN, check out my rockin’ line-up of events next week: CLICK HERE for current schedule!

Despite the long (ok, very long) days and even longer nights, the countless hours at airports and in rental cars, getting to meet wonderful people who share an equal love for all things whisky is truly special.

On my last night in Chicago, IL, the brilliant & easy-going Monique Huston (on twitter at @WhiskySommelier) arranged a private sold-out dinner in which Peter Currie of Duncan Taylor, Chip Tate of Balcones, & I with Brenne presented, discussed, and enjoyed whiskies with about 40 of the midwest’s – and beyond – top Whisky Geeks (for definition, click HERE).  It was a special evening held in the basement of The Peasantry restaurant where we dined, sipped, discussed, debated and shared all things ‘whisky’ for hours with the likes of Mahesh Patel (of Universal Whisky Experience) and Brett Pontoni (of Binny’s).

Bottles

The next morning … we were feeling a little goofy!

Peter & Chip playing around with the netting that protects your hair, er, I mean the bottles. :)

Peter & Chip playing around with the netting that protects your hair, er, I mean the bottles. 🙂

Feel the hair net love

Feel the hair net love

Suffice it to say, it was a fun trip but one that also proved to be very successful.  While we’re still having some red-tape issues with the state of IL and haven’t been able to ship out their first order of Brenne, something awesome did happen during my time there.  After the 2nd night (and a super-rocking sold-out massive Whisky festival at one of Binny’s stores) I got the word that Binny’s, who was originally going to do a 10-store roll out with Brenne, decided to up the ante and do a full, all locations, 29-store roll out!!!  That’s pretty exciting for anyone but especially so for a can’t-get-smaller-than-mine 1-person company!  Thanks Brett & the whole team at Binny’s! Can’t wait to get going there!

Snoopy_Happy_Dance

I can’t describe the feeling when individuals, stores, restaurants & distributors place re-orders for something that you’ve created.  It’s exhilarating, exciting, sometimes in a weird way a tad bit scary, and definitely for me sits somewhere between pride & humility.  There is no greater compliment then when someone buys that second drink, or second bottle, or double’s their order realizing that this is something they want to get behind.  And as I’ve said since the beginning, THANK YOU, and you all keep me very humble and make me want to work even harder.

Just the other day, I got this photo along with an event announcement on twitter from The Bottle Shop at McEwen, a store I’ll be visiting in Nashville, TN.  Talk about a beautiful tower of whisky!!!!!

Brenne Whisky Tower @ the Bottle Shop McEwen in Franklin, TN

Brenne Whisky Tower @ the Bottle Shop McEwen in Franklin, TN

So now I’m gearing up to leave NYC again for another much-anticipated Brenne launch week and I’m feeling excited, blessed, grateful & super-charged!  Next stop, Nashville, TN!!!!

plane

Balvenie – New Make Whisky Tasting Notes

April 20, 2012 § 19 Comments

A couple of weeks ago I had the ultimate whisky-geek experience of being temporarily uprooted from my busy life in NYC to partake in the more relaxed lifestyle of the Scots in Speyside, Scotland.  One of the highlights being a very personal and memorable visit with David Steward at the Balvenie distillery (see my post on that visit HERE).

Photo (c) The Whisky Woman 2012

While there, I tasted some very rare and exceptional drams which I’ll continue to write about in upcoming posts.  The first of which, however, was their new make (also known as “white whisky”) which is the distillate prior to any aging.  It’s clear, fresh and bright and is the important base of all of their beautiful variations.  This is not something that is ever bottled and sold by Balvenie, despite a trend across the pond by the American craft distillers who have been releasing their white whiskies & moonshines over the last few years.   Sometimes these new makes can be a bit hard to drink, but I assure you, Balvenie never does anything rough.

NOSE: Sweet grass, malty, pungent sweet, celery salt, salted honey

PALATE: Eucalyptus, rich, complex, sweet after taste, bright, yummy esters (yup, I did just write that!)

WITH H2O: Eucalyptus is still present with white pepper introducing itself, still sweet, beautiful and something I wish I could buy to have on hand always!

I love a good un-aged whisky and this one is particularly delicious (in fact, I wish I was sipping on this right now as I write this post!).  But if you can get your hands on one, and I’m talking about a good one, try it chilled in the summer or, my favorite way, paired with some kind of citrus dessert (think lemon bar or a crème brûlée seasoned with orange zest).

What about you?  Do you have a favorite un-aged whisky or a preferred way to enjoy this kind of spirit?

Photo (c) The Whisky Woman 2012

Distillery Visit: Balvenie in Speyside, Scotland

April 6, 2012 § 14 Comments

Between the rain and the recent snow, there were a few beautiful, dry, warm & sunny days in Scotland … and I was lucky enough to have been a visitor during just those days!

After an incredible tour of Forsyths, the Scottish still makers (see my post on that visit HERE), next on the itinerary was a visit to another place in Speyside which has a deep place in my whisky-heart; Balvenie.

Not only was I lucky enough just being there – but my travel buddy (head distiller of Balcones, Chip Tate) and I were given a private tour by Balvenie’s Malt Master (aka, head distiller), David Stewart and their distillery ambassador, David Mair.  And if that wasn’t enough – David Stewart was also in the midst of celebrating his 50th year at Balvenie!  Congratulations, David!!!

We truly had a lovely afternoon walking the grounds, geeking out about all things “whisky” and of course – drinking some seriously special drams – a few of which David poured straight from the barrels into our open palms.  Luckily, slurping was acceptable because I wasn’t letting a single drop hit the floor!

Below is a collection of photos that I took during the visit.  Hope you enjoy!

Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

The Balvenie Castle … not exactly where we were trying to go (it’s not that close to the distillery) but it is quite cool to see.  Thanks to Google Maps for accidentally taking us here first!

Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

Oh the Scottish weather!

Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

The sign says, “Welcome To Dufftown” …. phew! Back on the right road and almost there!

Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

We made it!!!

Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

This is the view with our backs to the distillery.  Isn’t Scotland just so pretty?

Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

The Malting Floor.  One of only about 3-5 distilleries left in Speyside who still have an active malting floor.  It’s a lot of hard work, manual labor and expense for these distilleries to maintain so it’s a real treat when you get to see one with your own eyes.  Highland Park is another one who malts some of their own barley.  I don’t know if there is a single distillery left who currently malts 100% of their own barley… if you know of one – please share in the comments below!

Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

Love their old, red grist grinder!

Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

Inside a giant mash ton

Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

This is what they’re talking about when they say, “wooden wash backs.”  Not many places ferment their grains in wood anymore.  Stainless steel is far more common.

Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

Check out their shiny gold (ok, brass) spirit safes! This is where the distillate cuts are made.  Meaning that during the distillation process, the distiller uses the switches and the hydrometer (the device that reads the % of alcohol content) to move the new make through the stills, the low wines receiver and the spirits receiver. Fancy, huh?

Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

Sorry – no photos allowed of the aging rooms (though they were really cool!) – we need to let that liquid gold get it’s beauty sleep!  Off to the tasting room we go!

Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

This was the “planned” tasting round … but as luck would have it, the cabinet doors were opened up and we were treated to a few bonus rounds!  David & David gave us to some really special pours which I’ll certainly share my tasting notes to later … so stay tuned!

Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

Needless to say, it was a really special afternoon.  Thank you David, David and Chip for the laughs, whisky and lasting memories.  This day will stay with me for a very long time.

Sláinte!

A visit to Forsyths – the great whisky still makers

March 30, 2012 § 16 Comments

Forsyth copper still - in the making. Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

Last week I had the opportunity to be a part of the most unique tour in Speyside, Scotland.  A tour that is quite uncommon and not available to the public – and one that I will remember for the rest of my life  (in a way that only a true whisky-geek could).

I walked the grounds of the Forsyths facility – the Forsyth facility.  You know the guys … the ones responsible for creating and maintaining all of the equipment that goes in to making that beautiful dram in your hand.  The stills.  The beautiful copper stills.  To the likes of Balvenie and Bruichladdich, from Kavalan to one day soon, Balcones.  These are the original still masters and they continue today to make the stills by hand – 3 generations later.

A most sincere THANK YOU to Richard Forsyth for being such a generous host and to Chip Tate (Balcones) for the awesome & unforgettable invitation.

So, put on your hard hat and your ear plugs, this Whisky Woman is going to let you peep inside this magnificent palace of constant construction!

A massive Irish still in the making - Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

Hello beautiful! Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

Forsyth stills - Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

That's a mighty large fermentation tank, you got there!
Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

Safety first! Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

Base of a massive still destined for Ireland - Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

Copper talk @ Forsyth - Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

Yours truly modeling her hard hat - Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

The neck of a still being worked on by hand - so cool! - Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

The day ended with a few shared glasses of whisky and a solid game of pool.  Naturally, I was on the winning team – kicking butt with my rock-star partner, Richard.

A great game of pool - I won (but only with a ton of help from my partner, Richard Forsyth) 😉 - Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

And just to come full circle, Richard’s father (also Richard Forsyth) was awarded the Icons of Whisky Lifetime Achievement Award in London later that week.  Congratulations Richard on receiving such a high honor and much deserved recognition.

Distillery visit: Anchor Brewing & Anchor Distilling

February 1, 2012 § 3 Comments

Almost 2 weeks ago, I had the amazing & somewhat unexpected pleasure of spending an afternoon with Bruce Joseph inside the famous Anchor brewery & distillery in San Francisco, California.

Bruce is a legend.

After a long history of working in the brewery, he spearheaded Anchor Distilling with Anchor’s long-time former owner, Fritz Maytag.  They started in the early 1990’s looking back into America’s history to understand and re-create the original American whiskey (we’re talking about figuring out what and how our first president, George Washington, distilled, folks).  Turns out, it was 100% Rye whiskey that was aged in toasted, not charred, barrels.  Thus, Anchor’s 18th Century Style Whiskey was born!

Anchor continues to make the 18th Century Style Whiskey and their Straight Rye Whiskey in small batches.  They have also added two gins to their portfolio: Junipero (which is beautiful & I encourage you to get your hands on if you haven’t already) and Genevieve; a unique, 17th-style gin.  This was the first time I had tried the Genevieve and was happy to have done so.  It is very pleasant on the palate, light citrus and herbs with some serious complexity & viscosity as well.  And this baby goes down very easily … almost too easily.  This is not a gin to be used in a martini – no – this is to be enjoyed neat, over ice or, as per Anchor’s suggestion, shaken with ice.

After a five hour tour that was a perfect balance of tech talk, industry speak, distilling geek-out moments and, of course, some sampling of products, it was a magical afternoon that started with a random knock at the door and the luck of good timing.

Ok, enough chit-chat!  Let’s get to the photos!

(c) Local Infusions, 2012

Hello Anchor! … the excitement grows!

(c) Local Infusions, 2012

Yay! Whole, beautiful HOPS!

(c) Local Infusions, 2012

Oh beer, how crisp, refreshing and lovely you are!

(c) Local Infusions, 2012

That’s some serious Steam Beer, baby!

(c) Local Infusions, 2012

Look at all of that gorgeous, shiny, whiskey-producing copper

(c) Local Infusions, 2012

Fermenting 100% rye, upon which we did a little impromptu tasting!

(c) Local Infusions, 2012

Bruce Joseph & me, Allison Patel … the Whisky Woman 😉

(c) Local Infusions, 2012

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