Hurricane Sandy; a personal experience from lower Manhattan

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.

Photo credit: Bloomberg News

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.


NYC whiskey bar: Rye House

September 18, 2012 § 3 Comments

If you follow this blog at all – you’re already familiar with my love of Brandy Library in NYC.  Alas, my heart has been opened further to embrace another wonderful whisky bar here in New York.

When meeting with a fellow whisky geek Doug Stone (founder of last week, I offered to meet him at his favorite whisky bar in the city.  Rye House was his choice – which made me happy as this would be my first visit.  Since then, I’ve been there twice more in just the last 7 days.  Needless to say, I LOVED it.  With hand-sculpted warm wood benches, communal tables and decor grounding the lofty ceilings, despite it’s classic NY “intimate” space, you won’t feel overwhelmed or cramped.  Just down right comfortable.

With over 190 whiskies to choose from and the most welcoming environment – I will certainly continue my patronage.  From the moment you walk in, you feel as if you’ve entered your best-friends man cave.  It’s friendly, warm, and a come-as-you-are kind of spot.  You don’t have to know anything about whisky either; their knowledgeable staff will help guide you through their maze of offerings until you’ve landed on something that may suit your mood.

While you’re there, make sure you check out their growing list of tasting flights (not included in the PDF below).  These are always a great way to better familiarize oneself with the ever expanding whisky sub-categories.

Click here for a downloadable PDF of Rye Houses Spirit Menu

They do have food, though I’ve been enjoying the whiskies so much I haven’t ventured over to the dining menu just yet.  All in good time!

In my humble opinion, this is a MUST for those living here and anyone passing through this fine city.  Share your experience below if you’ve been!

11 West 17th Street between 5th & 6th avenue

NYC: Rooftop, Bacon, Whiskey & Burlesque … go

June 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

So in my week of back-to-back whisky events, I was told that I must attend this soiree (don’t you love friends who insist you join them out for wild, chic, crazy nights?).   And, in my theme of doing “heads up” posts on what’s going down around town, I thought I ought to include a little ditty about this… after all, there will be booze & burlesque … how can you go wrong?


Click HERE for more info.

See you around.  -WW

Balcones very special Rumble Cask Reserve tasting TOMORROW!

June 25, 2012 § 7 Comments

Hello whisky friends!  It’s time to mark your calendars!

You know every time my distiller friends roll into town – there are crazy whisky adventures to be had.  Well, now I’m giving you a headsup and a chance to join in on the fun.  (Don’t say I didn’t warn you when you read about it later!).

Chip Tate, head distiller and founder of the Balcones Distillery in Waco, TX is coming into town for the New York Bar & Restaurant Show and the New York World Wine & Spirits Competition … ok, you say, so what’s in it for me?  Glad you asked!

While he’s here, he will be doing a FREE tasting event on Tuesday, June 26th, 6:30pm-8:30pm at one of my favorite spots: the Brandy Library. (25 North Moore Street in Tribeca)

Aside from meeting Chip, what makes this extra cool is the under-the-radar/not-announced-till-right-now secret bottles that he’ll be pouring.  He’s pulled some crazy awesome barrel samples (whisky that’s taken directly from the barrel and put into a bottle), marked the glass bottles with a Sharpie marker and will be bringing them to NYC.  Awesomeness.

He’ll also have his SUPER LIMITED Rumble Cask Reserve (RCR) that’s finally launching in NY.  Last I checked, there were less then 300 bottles of this… ever.

Here are my tasting notes on the RCR:

ABOUT: Made exactly the way you make whisky but with one substitution, the ingredients!  This is made from figs, sugar & honey.  Fermented together, distilled & aged in a variety of American & French oak barrels.  This is the CASK STRENGTH version of his RUMBLE

NOSE: rich honey, drying rose petals, older leather, dehydrated apples

PALATE: smooth caramel and burnt sugar to start, a pleasant  journey which rolls moves the heavier notes quickly over the tongue

FINISH: long but light mouthfeel, honeysuckle flower into clove and black pepper on the end

WhiskyLive NYC 2012 – REVIEW

April 13, 2012 § 6 Comments

Anyone who knows me or who follows me on twitter probably knows that I attended the WhiskyLive NYC show this past Wednesday as I was practically jumping out of my skin with excitement! And this year surely did not disappoint.

It’s one of my favorite nights of the year – a time to catch up with old friends, meet new ones and drink some seriously stand-out drams.   And may I just give my sincerest apologies to everyone who I either didn’t mention here or didn’t have a chance to visit.  I could have easily used another 4 hours!

Photo (c) of The Whisky Woman, 2012

My first stop was quite intriguing … Notch Single Malt Whisky from Nantucket.  Notch partners with Cisco Brewers who makes a special beer for them from Maris Otter malt (which has an interesting history for a grain & according to Wikipedia, is “acknowledged right across the brewing world as the finest-quality malt available”).  This beer, or wort, is then moved to the Triple Eight Distillery to distill in a small copper pot still where just the heart cut of the distillate is used and aged for 8 years in ex-bourbon and finished in French oak Merlot wine casks from local Nantucket wineries.

Now, this was a really enjoyable dram but what I can’t understand is the price.  $888 for a 750ml bottle.  I am sure they didn’t have the price match the name of the distillery to be cute … but I just can’t get my head around this!  Remember, this was my first stop so I know my brain was still quite sharp – but I didn’t hear them mention the addition of 24k gold or a unicorn horn as a “gift with purchase” so not wanting to further interrupt the interview they were doing with Gregg from, I snapped the above photo promised them I would be following up … and you bet I will be!  Asap.

Next stop, Balvenie!

Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

Now you know you’re a #WhiskyBadAss when you show up to an event with your own malting floor!  David Stewart and team, you guys are my heroes. (If you missed it, check out my earlier post of my visit to this distillery HERE)

I always enjoy my time with the happy and wonderfully talented Balvenie crew.  David and I caught up over a beautiful glass of their 14yr Caribbean Cask Single Malt which was divine.  They actually bring rum over from the Caribbean in tanks – not in casks – and fill their casks with the rum for 6 months.  Once they have their barrels perfectly seasoned with the rum, they remove it and replace the rum with their 14yr single malt to finish for 6 months prior to bottling.  Pretty cool, huh?

Photo (c) The Whisky Woman

Hey – are we taking each others photo!? Silly social media whisky geeks (myself included)! Smile!

Photo (c) The Whisky Woman

The Whisky Peddler.  Only available online HERE out of the World Of Liquor store in New Jersey.  Unbelievably yummy.  Patrick is smart.  He purchased two very interesting casks from notable distilleries in Scotland; one from Glen Grant and one from Highland Park.  You may ask (as I did) why buy his whiskies over buying a 14 year directly from the producer?  Because for both of these malts, he purchased the casks and kept them aging only in their ex-bourbon casks – no sherry finish on these beauts – and let me tell you simply – wow.  I was really happy standing here.  And at $52 or $60 / bottle, it keeps me baffled by the $888 price tag on the Notch …

Photo (c) The Whisky Woman

Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

Off to the Cocktail’s Live area!

Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

A toast with Kat Valentina – the fab mixologist from LA who was brought in to serve up a very tasty creamy-whiskey cocktail:

2 oz Jameson Irish Whiskey, .5 oz Sambuca, .75 oz Rum Chata & 2 oz of chilled coffee

… can we say mid-show pick me up?

Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

Whisky & chocolate – a great pairing.  Lucky for us, the hyper-talented chocolatier, Roni-Sue, was there serving up her unique bonbons and pairing them with such lovelies as Laphroaig and Basil Hayden!  I loved their Dark & Stormy truffle: dark chocolate ganache that features Goslings dark rum, fresh ginger and lime zest – all I tasted was pure deliciousness.

Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

Glen Garioch paired up with Murray’s Cheese, an excellent cheese shop in NYC (and luckily right down the street from me!) to create a cheddar that pairs specifically with the Glen Garioch whiskies.  HOW COOL IS THAT!?  I’ll be there tomorrow picking up a good wedge for this weekend!  The whiskies are great – balanced, smooth and perfectly complimented by the tangy-creaminess of the cheese.  At this point, though, it was too crowded and my glass was too coated with other whiskies to get accurate tasting notes but I’ll definitely be picking up a bottle on my next Scotch-run.

Photo (c) The Whisky Woman

Finish off with hug, dram and special (secret) Bourbon-Ball (a dark chocolate & Smooth Ambler bourbon bon-bon) from John Little, head-distiller at Smooth Ambler, and it was time for the after party!

Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

Now I don’t know how you travel to an after party … but I’m the kind of gal who likes to arrive in style so if that means negotiating a limo ride for some whisky for myself and my beloved whisky-family, like Balcones’ Chip Tate, Compass Box’s Robin Robinson and Kat Valentina … then so be it! 🙂

Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

Off to Ward III we went!  It was another amazing night!  Congrats Dave Sweet for organizing yet another stellar event!  Slainte!

WhiskyLive NYC 2012 – Coupon Code!

April 3, 2012 § 3 Comments

Oh man am I excited!!! It’s that time again – WhiskyLive is coming to NYC next week on Wednesday, April 11th.

If you haven’t purchased your tickets yet – especially all of you whiskey/spirit bloggers – do so now! WhiskyLive by Whisky Magazine is not the event to miss.  With over 230 different whiskies being poured and the USA PREMIER of the CocktailsLive show (featuring whisky cocktails created by some of NYC’s top bartenders – awesomeness!) this is something I seriously look forward to year after year. I get goosebumps just thinking about it!!!

Go for the whiskies, the networking and this year for the addition of the CocktailsLive show – all included in the price of a basic ticket (and did I mention a full dinner buffet?)!

Ready for your discount code?  Here you go!  Just enter: ww2012 in the promo code at check out to receive 10% off of your VIP or Regular ticket.  (Code is case sensitive – please note there are no upper case letters).  Click HERE for more info and to see the list of Master Classes.

I’ll be live tweeting at @whiskygirls and @localinfusions

If you’re going to be there – let me know in the comments and include your twitter handle – I’ll follow you!

(oh, and since I know you want the inside scoop, the industry after party will most likely be at Ward III in Tribeca …  but you’ll have to follow me on twitter for real time confirmation – where ever it ends up though – you can bet I’ll be there!)

Campbeltown Loch 21 year old Blended Scotch Whisky

February 22, 2012 § 13 Comments

I had the most unique experience the other night that still, 2 days later has me a bit perplexed.

Sitting at the bar of an Italian restaurant around the corner from my home (Centro Vinoteca) I found myself peering quite intently at a lightly colored whisky sitting quietly between the Balvenie Double Wood and the Chivas Regal 12yr.

The view of whiskies from my seat at the bar

Can you see it? 🙂

Towards the end of the meal, I asked the bartender if I could just see the bottle.  Realizing that it had never been opened, the gentleman sitting to my right said, “Let’s open it up and have a taste!”  At which point I learned that he was one of the owners.  He kindly poured a taste for me and one for himself and then quickly drank his like a shot.  I, like the whisky geek that I am, sat there for what seemed like 30 minutes but was probably more like 5 smelling, examining and as best as I could, keeping track of the delicious experience.

Here’s what I wrote down:

ABOUT: 21 year old blended Scotch, 40% abv (80 proof), this is the house blend of the Springbank distillers in Campbeltown

NOSE: maple honey comb, hint of geranium, jasmine black tea, wet spices (clove, cinnamon)

PALATE: water, tire and sweet tobacco leaves on the front, perhaps a bit of toned-down cereal milk which lent a pleasant sweetness in the middle, toffee with grapefruit crème brûlée

FINISH: very smooth, lingering black tea, tobacco, leather and a lovely hint of peat

Coming home, I realized just how rare this bottle might be.  I found it sold out on the UK site, Master of Malt, and haven’t yet found anywhere else (IF YOU DO, please share a link in the comments section below!).   The only review I found was by the beloved Ralfy.  I’ve included his video below.  He gives a lot of history about this particular bottling.  ENJOY and let me know if you can find it!


GO: This Saturday, Feb 18th 4pm-7pm NYC

February 17, 2012 § 6 Comments

Here’s a good one!  $20 = 3hrs of whiskey tastings, cocktails & Jambayala

If you’re wondering what to do this weekend – head on over to one of my all-time favorite stores: Le Du’s Wines for an awesome tasting event with a little bit of Mardi Gras goodness!

Le Du Mardi Gras Tasting Event

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 18 from 4pm-7pm

600 Washington Street (between Leroy & Morton)

See you there!

HOW TO: Create your own Whisky Tasting Party

December 5, 2011 § 13 Comments

I have been attending so many whisky events recently that it got me thinking: what would make these even better?

Answer: To be surrounded with my close friends.

So this holiday season, I offer you this: The Whisky Woman’s Guide to Creating Your Own Whisky Tasting Party .  It’s time to stop fretting and start celebrating!


Whisky (at least 3 different bottles, the more the merrier -for easy online ordering, check out Binny’s, DrinkUpNY, Astor Wines, BevMo, Park Ave Liquor, K&L)

Tulip Shaped Glasses  (to help focus your nose to the delicate aromas, check out Glencarin, -found HERE at Amazon)

Room temperature spring water (if you want to kick it up a notch, buy a dropper or 2 for easier control of the water-adding situation – found HERE at Amazon)

Unsalted Crackers (to cleanse your palate between spirits – also found HERE at Amazon)

Coffee beans (not necessary but I find very helpful when smelling lots of different whiskies during one sitting)

Opaque Container (for spitting and/or dumping – in a pinch, I use mugs – found HERE at Amazon)

Friends (this party can be done by yourself, but it’s WAAAAY more fun to dive into your whisky exploration with your pals around! – easily found HERE at Facebook) 😉


For the novice, familiarize yourself with the different types of whisky.  “Whisky” or “Whiskey” is the main category under which you have Scotch, Bourbon, Rye, Single Malts, Blends, Irish, Canadian, Japanese, American Craft, etc.  If you are new to whisky, I suggest choosing bottles from different categories and going as pure as possible (single malts, straight Bourbons, straight rye) and not because there aren’t good blends out there (there are!) but because the authentic characteristics of each type of whisky are often more diluted or altered in a blend.


“Bring a bottle” – you can have each guest bring a bottle (though perhaps it’s best to confirm choices before hand so you can make sure you have some diversity)

“Vertical” – like a Vertical Wine flight, you can do a tasting of the same producer but different years

“Single category” – having different producers from the same category (like all Ryes or all Canadian whiskies) to start to understand the different nuances between the distilleries (think about their production methods and their climate & altitude locations as these effect how the whiskies age in the casks).

“Single Region” – look at trying Scotch’s all from the same area, Bourbons from just Kentucky or Tennessee

“Craft vs Mass Producer” – look for a small producer (perhaps one that is close to your neck of the woods?) and compare their product to one of the “big boys”

Feel free to get creative!  This is the fun part!


1) Pour whisky & pass around to friends

2) Observe color and clarity (murkiness is OK! If your whisky is cloudy, the distiller did NOT use chill-filtration before bottling which removes impurities but also removes flavors)

3) Smell!  Putting your nose gently above the glass (give it some space!) start to inhale and enjoy the different notes you find.  Get in there – move your nose around to different points around the mouth of the glass, top, bottom, sides, open your mouth as you inhale through your nose … this will help you find different flavors.  Move your head away from the glass, inhale non-whisky air, and go back in again.

4) Chew – Take a very small sip that is enough to prep your palate but not enough to swallow.  “Chew” it by moving it around your mouth, letting it dissolve on your tongue.

5) Taste.  Be taken away by the spirit!  Pay attention to how it changes as it moves around, how it feels once you’ve swallowed it and the lingering effect it leaves in your mouth (called the “finish”)

6) Be a chemist!  Time to add a few drops of water.  This helps to calm down the alcohol and bring out the more delicate notes of the whisky.  Nose it again than drink and enjoy!

7) Rinse and repeat!

Photo credit: Sebastian Yao, Fix It In Post, (c) 2011 for Local Infusions. Please respect the photographer and do not steal this photo and use illegally

2 cool whisky events YOU can attend!

November 29, 2011 § 2 Comments

If you live in or plan to visit NYC, read on!  These two events are different and interesting enough that I wanted to give others a chance to attend instead of doing a post-event review. (See, aren’t I nice!?)

These are hosted by Le Dû’s Wines … who has been building quite a nice collection of whiskies over the last 6 months and are taking this recent addition to their shop quite seriously (which makes me happy!).  You may remember me giving them a shout out earlier this month for hosting the exclusive Louis XIII tasting I blogged about HERE. …

Get out your calendars are read on!



Click on the box above to be taken to their site or call 212-924-6999 for reservations.

Enough said.


This next event is FREE but invite only and space is extremely limited.  Consider this your personal invitation.  If you are interested (and why wouldn’t you be!?) email JT Robertson (jt at leduwines dot come) asap for a spot.

Here are the details: Free but invite only Signatory and Cigar tasting on December 15th.  Signatory’s Brand Manager will be tasting 8 or so awesome single barrel Scotches in a super swag cigar shop in Midtown (complete with a smoking lounge, of course).  What could be better?  Get on the list now to get the full scoop!

THANKS for the 411 JT!!! You know you’ll be seeing me behind a whisky glass!  Can’t wait! 

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