April 25, 2014 § 15 Comments
My mother jokes that Brenne is her grandchild. I appreciate the joke as Brenne Whisky certainly feels like my first born! And this little baby of mine is gearing up to be a toddler at 18 months old!
Lately I’ve gone through a little internal adjusting and it’s been an interesting game of realization, reflection and a touch of soul searching.
Last Friday my good friend Jackie Summers (of the ridiculously delicious Sorel liquor and yes, he is the Jack From Brooklyn) stopped by to drop something off in advance of a photo shoot we’re doing together next week for an article (yay!). When he arrived, I was not in my usual 100mph, multi- stimuli and multi- everything pace. Instead, I opened the door, hugged him and went back to my living room floor where I laid down, face first.
This journey I’m on is truly incredible. I couldn’t be more blessed; we’re exceeding our goals, leaping over our sales projections, YOU all have continued to be here with me (thank you!), I love when I travel and have the opportunity to meet people in the flesh from all over who we’ve been in contact with on social media (hey #whiskyfabric!), the press & fellow bloggers continue to help me get the word out and I have the BEST team of Brand Ambassadors (via Classic Imports, yay!) out there every day sharing my vision and my little whisky.
Sometimes – the reality of which just smacks you upside the head. Even with all of that support – I’ve still bitten off a LOT. And in my own tiny, super small way, just that fact that I’m still here is a huge accomplishment for me. But WOW – there is still just so much work ahead and on that day, I felt like life had just rushed ahead and left me in the dust. I kept asking myself how am I ever going to get to the tops of these mountains? And man have I have chosen some massive mountains to tackle!!! I was lying on the floor covering my head because the view from my tiny peak was making me nauseous just as much as the realization of how much farther and higher I want to climb! I see plenty of other people climbing these mountains too, but they all seem to have huge teams, fancy gear and a documentary entourage in tow! Yikes. I’m still climbing solo.
This is not an easy road at all. Naturally, I only share publicly the highlights of this journey, but I tell people who are thinking about starting their own _X_ in the spirits world to not be fooled by the happy-go-lucky social media sharing; everything looks easier then it seems, even the stuff that looks impossible. But (there’s always a but!) – the moment when you start to realize your dream is becoming a reality is unlike anything else. It’s deep, exciting and can rock you to the core. 🙂
Brenne has only been on the market for 18 months (which feels like 3yrs) and I realized on that Good Friday that I needed to cut myself some slack. (For example, in that very moment I was getting mad at myself for lying on the floor missing out on valuable work time – I’m my best critic!) My goals and dreams are big – really big, as are any entrepreneurs. And despite the fact that the things I’ve put in motion are, for the most part, farther ahead of where I thought they’d be at this point, it’s still no where near good enough for me and I was in a bit of shock at just how much work I need to do before I get to my next mountain peak.
And here’s where life get’s funny. There I was last Friday feeling like a baby ant in the world of the spirit giants and after spending some quality soul-revitalization time with Jack <@TheLiquortarian on twitter (which included grabbing a slice of pizza and visiting a few accounts together, naturally) this happened:
I decided to walk home after I departed ways with Jackie and popped into a great little store called The Wine Hut NYC along the way. As soon as the store was empty, I pulled out my bottle of Brenne Whisky and introduced myself to the man behind the counter, hoping to get an appointment with the buyer. The store manager looked at me and pointed to a shelf directly above him where Brenne was already sitting! Shocked I asked how he knew about it. He gave me a quizzical look and said matter of factly, “Well, it’s in all the magazines … how would someone not know about it?” (Ummm because I still don’t believe that my baby has sprouted wings!?!). Then 3 people approached the register with 2 bottles of wine and said, “we just need to add a bottle of whisky to our purchase.” Without missing a beat I said, “Oh! Get Brenne! Here!” and popped the cork from my bottle for them to smell & taste it. Without even asking the price – they grabbed a bottle and said, “yup, that’s our new favorite whisky!” I walked out feeling a little better.
The next day, I went up to the country for some much-needed fresh air and some quality time with my oldest friend.
On the drive to catch the train back to NYC, she suggested we pop into her local liquor store, saying that there was something she thought I’d want to see. Walking in, right there on the counter was a display of craft whiskies with Brenne front and center. Best part is she had nothing to do with it (with the exception of apparently doing a dance in the store the first time she and her husband saw it on the shelf!)!
It’s such a weird mix of feelings. I’m out there every day talking about Brenne and the people I meet rarely have heard of it prior to meeting me. But then, there are these incidents of learning about Brenne in places for which the sales had nothing to do with my direct facilitation. On one level I’m well aware that people are learning about Brenne far beyond my direct reach (thank goodness!) – but it’s a fantastic shift to have to alter my thinking (and therefore selling approach) from “absolutely no one I meet has ever hear about Brenne” to “some people may have heard of it!”
I felt like the arm floaties have been removed recently and I’m standing on the edge of the pool watching Brenne swim … not sink … and it feels incredible. Still so much work that needs to be done but at least it’s continuing to grow!
Thank you all for your amazing love & support as I keep trudging forward. Thank you, truly, for bearing with me!
The post I had been prepping for this week was a review of a particularly special night in LA where fellow blogger, Rob Gard of The Whisky Guy blog and author of the recently published “Distilling Rob” and I co-hosted a magical evening of story telling and whisky sipping. Thankfully, Aaron (guest writer on the It’s Just The Booze Dancing blog) just published this magnificent article re-caping the night in far better and more entertaining detail then I ever could! Click HERE to be taken to their awesome post!
February 10, 2014 § 3 Comments
My husband always says to me (in horror & shock) “You haven’t met an ice cream you don’t like!” And on our recent trip to Japan, neither the country’s explosion of wild flavors (think wasabi, cherry blossom, roasted tea, etc.) nor my ravenous search to seek out and try them all – sometimes twice a day- did anything to prove the contrary.
So you can imagine my pure delight when I received an email from Melissa Tavss, founder & CEO of Tipsy Scoop, asking if I’d like to give one of her booze-infused ice creams a try! (Clearly we had never met as anyone in my existing circle of friends wouldn’t have asked and just dropped off a sample instead). But as I skimmed her list of Valentine’s Day flavors, it looked like the offer got even better for there, in black and white, was tipsy whisky ice cream.
I quickly responded and asked specifically if it would be okay to try the “Deep Dark Chocolate Depression & Salted Caramel Whiskey Tears” (did I need to record a Lifetime movie to go along with this!?). Being made & sold in NYC, she delivered my sample in no time at all and it was time to get down to tasting business!
The sample was delivered in the early afternoon packed nicely in a cute Tipsy Scoop cloth insulator bag à la 90’s lunch-bag style, 2 postcards & a very large, flexible ice pack – all of which went directly into my freezer, postcards and all.
On the rare occasion, my husband and I will pull out our at-home ice cream maker and whip up a batch of something fun – learning early on that a couple of tablespoons of hard liquor will keep the desert from fully freezing and thus, making a more elegant, creamy and easy-to-scoop texture. One of our favorite combos has always been grapefruit sorbet with Campari – yum! Knowing that my at-home version yields nice texture and a hint of flavor (and I don’t remember ever feeling the effects of the alcohol), I was curious to see how Tipsy Scoop would balance the non-freezing aspect of the booze with the bigger-then-a-hint of its flavor.
7hrs later after my sample was delivered, I prepped my palate for review & my counter for proper photos and excitedly removed the parcel from my freezer, quickly arranging the items for a photo before opening the lid & starting my “research” …
(Naturally, I poured myself a glass of Brenne – one I thought I’d enjoy soon after writing my tasting notes when I moved on to the pure enjoyment part of ice cream consumption…however)
…upon opening the lid, I had a bit of a problem; it wasn’t frozen at all. 😦
I popped the container back into the freezer (this time it went in just on its own, sans bag & ice pack and right next to my ice trays) checking on it again after about an hour. It was better but still needed more time. So I waited until about another 30-45 minutes and we had a texture that was much better:
TASTE: creamy vanilla, a hint of caramel, chocolate … with a kick! Holy moley, it tasted like Frozen Bailey’s (which makes sense; whisky + chocolate + cream … it’s kinda their thing!).
TEXTURE: The soup-debacle aside, the ice cream itself had a nice texture but not as silky as I might have liked. It melted quickly (due to the high alcohol content) causing all of the chocolate bits to fall to the bottom. I prefer having chewable things in my ice cream (chocolate chips, nuts, etc) but it’s key that they are scattered evenly throughout the layers.
WHISKEY: I enjoyed having the whisky folded into the ice cream – Tipsy Scoop was definitely generous with the booze and it makes for a really fun (albeit adult-only) scoop.
Upon further research (okay, more like reading her website while sipping on that glass of Brenne waiting for my sample to firm up), I learned that she has a family heritage of ice cream making & shop ownership in Scotland! And it was this wise, 4th generation ice cream designer who brought the cream+sugar together with the water of life. Not. Too. Shabby.
SUMMARY: I love the idea, love the creative flavor combinations and the cute packaging. I had a problem with the melting which could have been something that happened to my batch only or perhaps I should have removed the sample from the insulated bag & ice pack it was delivered with and just stored it in my freezer by itself. I do think this makes for an awesome Valentine’s Day experience and while $45 for 3 pints of ice cream seems quite high for ice cream – if (for New Yorkers especially) you think that it equals $15/pint which we readily spend on a single cocktail – it may be justifiable for a special occasion.
Wishing you all the happiest of Valentine’s Days .. for those of you not in New York City (and thus unable to get a Tipsy Scoop delivery at this time), perhaps you’ll whip up your own versions for the big day of love? I would think that a little whisky mixed into the ice cream with a little more poured on top at time of consumption (á la affogato style) would be quite dreamy! Share your booze+ice cream combos below!
***And a very big THANK YOU to Melissa of Tipsy Scoop for giving me the delicious sample and trusting me with a review! It was great fun – you’re definitely on to something wonderful here. Congrats!***
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.**
July 17, 2013 § 10 Comments
I hope you all are enjoying your summer! There have been a few of funny and uplifting short stories about me + Brenne that I’ve shared recently with my small community on Facebook. After seeing their overwhelmingly positive responses, I felt that they might be fun to share with all of you here as a tiny collection.
Hope you enjoy them too! But first, as I sit here in the wee hours of the morning – my favorite time to write and edit posts – let’s play a game of “What’s In My Glass?” … ok, it’s brown, it loves ice, and Jim McEwan has been synonymous with the distillery for the last 10+ years…
drum roll please…
Keep in mind that I live in New York City and for this first little story, it’s helpful to note that “the roof” refers to my building’s super-special rooftop garden oasis! Ahhhh…. it’s where my sanity lives!
AS OF JULY 17th:
Last Thursday I was on the roof with the lovely Georgie Bell (SMWS Global Ambassador) & my husband, Nital Patel, when our neighbor Jesse came up to join us with his friend. It was Nick Hoult. After a while I said, “I’m sorry, I’m really bad with knowing people I should know… should I know you?” He was adorable & humble and once it came out that he’s playing the Beast in the upcoming X-Men film, he promised to take a photo of himself in his makeup with Brenne 🙂
As for the whisky: We sat up there enjoying the warm company and glowing sunset with Smooth Ambler Old Scout Rye Manhattans (and cheese, plenty of creamy French cheeses, naturally!).
[side note: apparently, the production company owns the rights to photos of the actors in costume thus I won’t be able to post any pictures of Nick with Brenne in costume – but it would be fun for the personal archives if I’m ever able to get a copy! If not – it’s certainly a lovely thought!]
ALSO AS OF JULY 17th:
This morning (as of 10:30 am on Tuesday, 7/17) I got a call from my buddy Cristiano Andrade (buyer for SeaGrapes Wine & Spirits) asking me to bring some Brenne Whisky down to his store, “within the next 3 minutes.” Well I know a call-to-action when I hear one! Still in my gym clothes I ran down the street with a case of Brenne tucked under one arm. There was Don Johnson buying 1/2 the case to give as gifts … he said they were for his “leading ladies” (to which I assumed he was just some guy with a harem of women) but the more he spoke I realized he might literally mean “Leading Ladies” so I said, “Oh, are you an actor?” He said Yes. I asked if he was more into films or broadway … then he said, “I did a show called Miami Vice … maybe you know it?” He was extremely sincere – we were cracking up because I AM the WORST at knowing people I “should” know … but he asked me to sign the bottles of Brenne and off he went to board his friend’s private plane …
Not a bad week for Brenne!!! Good for me I’m not easily embarrassed! LOL
AS OF JULY 10th:
I was at an ATM the other day and the woman one machine over said, “Excuse me, but is that Brenne Whisky in your bag?” Happily surprised & a little thrown I said, “Yes! Do you know about it?” And she said, “Oh YES! It’s the best whisky I have ever had!! My friends and I drink it all the time!”
Seriously, my mouth hit the floor. I introduced myself (which in turn surprised her), exchanged cards, and told her if she or her friends ever had any questions to give me a call. After a quick show of her dog doing his tricks, I thanked her profusely and walked out of the bank a little bit taller. Still don’t totally believe it happened myself! #LittleEngineThatCould
POSTED ON JUNE 5th
So yesterday I had a meeting with a restaurant who was very clear that “they didn’t have ANY space behind the bar to take in any new products” but, because I’m a neighbor, they agreed to a meeting. I told them I’m a “no pressure sales gal” but that they should at least try it. Brenne will soon be out of stock and the next shipment won’t be ready till the Fall – so they should figure out now if they like it to get on a list.
I poured a small sip for both owners and before I knew it, one grabbed the bottle and poured little samples for every one of their regulars sitting at the bar while the other ran down and grabbed his check book. All of their regulars immediately jumped up and came over to shake my hand & tell me what a “winner” I had created, while the other owner wrote me a check on the spot and asked me to run home and grab 2 more bottles – right then and there – and to check back with them in a couple of weeks to make sure they can stock up before the shortage!
Brenne is now available at Tavern on Jane, NYC.
And since it’s summer, I’ll leave you with one easy Brenne recipe:
BRENNE WHISKY FIGS
Get some fresh figs (the bigger the better!) and cut into quarters (if they’re fresh enough, you’ll be able to break them apart with your hands).
Throw them under the broiler for just a couple minutes to caramelize their natural sugars and top with a little Brenne whisky. You can thank me later!
Here’s me with a strainer full of fresh picked figs, right off the tree!
Just a few more tales from this whisky woman’s adventures of launching her own whisky brand … who continues to be grateful and happy to learn that others share her vision – and taste! (PHEW!)
June 13, 2013 § 20 Comments
This post could have also been titled:
Whisky Love Affair: Suntory
There isn’t one particular reason that I love Suntory – but more a collection of experiences gained over the years. The first, and perhaps most important, being that they are the producers of “the dram” that set me down this path of total Whisky geekdom, which I will always attribute as being Suntory’s Yamazaki 18. The second being that we always have a bottle of the Yamazaki 12yr on hand – always (which I have reviewed in the past HERE). I have long admired the Japanese esthetic – and when it’s applied to luxury, it doesn’t typically come across as being ostentatious or glitzy glam – but instead clean elegance.
And it was this minimalistic elegance that was on magnificent display a month ago on Tuesday, May 14th, at the Art of Suntory event at the Noguchi Museum in New York. This was no ordinary tasting, mind you, but an experience to not be quickly forgotten. No attention to detail was spared – from the sleek slate gray invitation with the carefully commissioned muted gray cheery blossom photo stamp – a detail so quiet it was not done to stand out on its own but rather aid in setting the tone for the pending event – to the exquisitely chosen location; the striking Noguchi Museum.
Entering the museum, we were greeted by a row of adoring fans … er … no, that’s not right …. rather a group of cheerful servers with delicate delicious amuse-bouches prepared by the renowned chef, David Bouley paired with a Hakushu 12 Highball. Delightful!
And don’t think for a second that you were able to just “show up” … no, when I say they took care of everything – they did. We were given a choice to 2 convenient meeting points in Manhattan – where we then boarded luxury shuttle buses to be driven off to (and from!) the event in Queens. Talk about an entrance. We were first welcomed by being handed a printed Suntory silk scarf – the color of which signified your level as a guest (red was press!) which was folded origami style into a pouch containing the program for the evening, a press packet & whisky menu. Classy. After walking past the line of servers above, we strolled outside to connect with #WhiskyFabric friends new & old. You could feel the excitement building in the air. No one knew quite what to expect but the foundation for a stellar evening was laid.
It kicked off outside with an impressive showing of whiskies and Suntory personalities, including CEO Toshi “TJ” Kumakora, Master Distiller Mike Miyamoto, USA East Coast Brand Ambassador Gardner Dunn and USA West Coast Brand Ambassador Neyah White, all of whom played an important role of guiding us through the evening.
Neyah White kicked us off with a Japanese word (sounded like “omo”) that means: opening up barriers. This can take on so many forms – from our zen garden settings in the midst of urban NYC to the overall fact that the world whisky category is here to stay. We heard from Mike Miyamoto (pictured below) who took us through the tasting and chef David Bouley who shared his own experiences of whisky + food coming together to enhance each other.
THE TASTING (photographed above):
YAMAZAKI 18YO | Nose: caramel, vanilla rooibos tea, sweet herbal notes | Taste: Herbal sweet & warming spice tea notes continue, long smooth finish. Heaven in a bottle.
HAKUSHU 25YO | Nose: burnt orange peel, mild sweet smokiness, fresh flowers … lilies, bit of evergreen forest | Taste: Spicy! Dark earthy tones – not piny but more of moss/mold in a good way!
HIBIKI 21YO | Nose: pear, honey, smoke | Taste: very balanced, not too many individual tastes popped out at me. Plenty of complexity.
The weather was perfect for such an event which flowed seamlessly between the indoors & outdoors areas. In hindsight, I don’t remember ever consciously walking to a place because it was indoors or out – but rather because the mood (or, let’s face it, WHISKY!) was calling me!
In the photo above on the right is William O’Donnell of The Men’s Collective and my husband, Nital Patel (which was a huge treat for me as it’s often hard to align schedules and actually attend a whisky event together!).
After the guided whisky tasting – they opened up the other “stations” around as more guests joined in the fun. The food, which started flowing out of the hidden kitchen, was a collection of delicate little morsels of goodness made with the intention of bringing out a particular aspect of the Single Malts or Blends.
We strolled, tasted, sampled, chatted and enjoyed ourselves for hours. Having particular joy in chatting with G-LO & Limpd of the It’s Just The Booze Dancing Blog, Josh Feldman, of the Coopered Tot blog (photographed below) and Stephen from The Malt Imposter.
Below, East Coast Suntory Brand Ambassador Gardner Dunn quickly shaves large cubes of ice down into perfectly rounded spheres and Suntory’s not-for-sale sparkling water bottled at the Yamazaki distillery used in the Hibiki 12 Highballs.
We ended the night strolling through the garden one more time – enjoying the sunset, whisky, food and company. But just when you thought they couldn’t pull out any more surprises, as we wound our way back through the museum to board a return bus home, there were YAMAZAKI TRUFFLES!!!!! I got so excited mine jumped from my hand and proceeded to roll across the floor at such a pace (leaving a little trail of dusted chocolate as it went!) I thought someone might have been controlling it via remote! Well, I can only be classy for so long, I’m surprised my bus didn’t turn back into a pumpkin halfway along the journey!
HUGE THANKS TO: Suntory & Exposure USA PR Company for hosting & inviting us to such a wonderful event. Particular thanks to Exposure’s Danielle Katz & Nicholas Rotondi for your generosity & going above and beyond to make us feel welcome. And BIG THANKS to the #WhiskyFabric crew who also attended and made this event feel far more personal than any event could.
APOLOGIES to Suntory & Exposure for my month-long delay in writing this post! I wanted this to be as perfect as the event has been preserved in my head … but then realized that would be impossible and it was more important to just get this done! 😀 Sorry for the writer’s block!
March 28, 2013 § 1 Comment
UPDATE: Since publishing this post, this particular event has been cancelled. There are definitely other Balcones events going on while Chip’s here so if you’re interested, please check out NYCwhisky.com for the most current list of whisky happenings in NYC! 🙂
I didn’t mean to do 2 event announcement posts back-to-back BUT next week the whisky circus rolls into NYC with the NY WhiskyLive event, the World Whisky Conference and whatever other events everyone is doing while they’re here and I thought this other one ought to be shared!
My good friend (& extremely talented distiller) Chip Tate of Balcones will be one of the many distillers in NYC next week. And in addition to WhiskyLive, he is also celebrating the 5th Anniversary of Balcones!!!
To celebrate, he’s doing a dinner at Harlow Restaurant in NYC that is open to the public (limited tickets available). Here a copy of the press release I received – I’ll definitely be there and can’t wait! Dying to try Chip’s NEWEST RELEASE, his Fifth Anniversary Straight Bourbon [64.2%] that just took Double Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition!
Hope to see you there! Please share below if you’re going, have experienced the Balcones line before or perhaps if you’ve met Chip! (or anything else you’d like to share, open forum here, folks) 🙂
March 14, 2013 § 5 Comments
Look out New York, here comes the Whisky Circus!
Every year during the first week in April, it feels like most of the flights that land at JFK are filled with distillers, ambassadors and adoring whisky fans (ok, geeks ;)) who all clamor into town with one main agenda: WhiskyLive NY (WLNY). It’s one of my favorite whisky events of the year, big enough that you can easily fill every second of your time tasting and chatting up the producers of different brands, but small enough where you’re not run down by a pack of over-inebriated, 18yr old + up “only” Scotch demanding drinkers. Nope, not here. Not that I’ve experienced, at least.
I’ve attended the last 3 NY WhiskyLive shows as a spectator (though last year, I presented Balcones at WhiskyLive London with Chip Tate… which was awesome). But this year will be an entirely different experience for me because for the first time at any large tasting event, I’ll be presenting Brenne! I’m so excited and it’ll be such a thrill to share my whisky with such a great group of whisky fans.
And as the kind folks at WhiskyLiveUSA often give me a coupon code for my readers, this year they really upped the ante and are offering you a 20% OFF COUPON! At check out, type in “brenne” <- it’s case sensitive! Hopefully this helps a lot of you who may be on the fence.
Now this year, for something extra special, the day following Whisky Live (April 4th) is the trade-only event: World Whiskies Conference (WCC). I had the absolute pleasure of attending this last year in London (as you might have noticed … my mug was all over their marketing material this year as many people pointed out, lol). But this event travels around the world, happening each year in a different city and this year, it’s on American soil!
Just check out the list of speakers & guests: WCC PROGRAM
I look forward to hearing all of the presentations, participating in the discussions and seeing lots of my old friends! I really can’t wait.
Any plans to attend either event? Have you been in the past? Share your experiences & thoughts below! 😀
March 6, 2013 § 10 Comments
Pour yourself a dram and enjoy the following review, I have a LOT to say about this remarkable event by fellow whisky enthusiast, Joshua Feldman.
To set the mood (and you’ll understand why later), I invite you to play Brahms Sextet in G-major as you read along.
As I enter the 6th month on the market with my whisky, Brenne (can’t believe my baby is 6 months old!), it’s extremely rare right now for me to be able to quite my Brenne-centric brain long enough to attend (vs conduct) a tasting event. However, when one of my favorite bloggers & whisky enthusiasts, Josh Feldman (of the Coopered Tot blog) announced that he would be presenting his first solo whisky tasting event where he’d be taking an audience through a carefully selected grouping of high-end chocolates + whiskies at the beautiful Morgan Library in the heart of Manhattan, and then graciously invite me to be his guest(!!!!) well, I just HAD to be there.
And was I ever thankful to do so. That night will stick with me forever.
FIRST, my company. (SIDE NOTE: One of whom is a fellow blogger -Susannah Skiver -and we thought it would be fun to post our reviews on the same day. Click to read her take!)
I went by myself which I really enjoy doing on occasion because I find that the world opens up around you in ways you might not have ever experienced otherwise. Everyone was assigned to a different table and was I ever blessed by the Whisky Angles. To my right was the enjoyable intellect, Clay Gordon (The Chocolate Life, @DiscoverChoc, chocolate expert, author, entrepreneur, etc), and to my left was the fantastic blogger and insightful taster, Susannah Skiver Barton (What Tastes Good blog, @whattastesgood). Next to Susannah was Rebekah Pizana who came up from Washington DC where she is a Gourmet Food/Drinks writer (I Write Gourmet blog, @IWriteGourmet) and across the table from us were a wonderful couple, Julie and her husband Derek, who is a professional classical musician. Our conversations ranged from food & whisky chemistry to music composition to changes in culture with a dash of psychology – and all under the umbrella of the fantastically curated pairing of chocolates by Pacari and a wide range of whiskies selected by Josh.
At this point, it would be extremely unfair of me to list my tasting notes as A) I’m afraid I might start drooling at the memory going back through all of the different combinations and B) I’ve been wanting to share my whisky-piphanies of the night with you and get your reactions to the fun! Do you still have the classical music playing? Good!
Here’s what went down:
- Glenmorangie Nectar D’Or – paired with Pacari Piura 70% regional varietal
- Compass Box Hedonism – paired with Pacari Lemongrass
- Glendronach 15 “The Revival” – paired with Pacari 65% Manabi regional varietal
- Aberlouer A’Bunadh – paired with Pacari 65% Manabi regional varietal
- Ardbeg Uigeadail – paired with Pacari Salt & Nibs
- Balcones Brimstone – paired with Pacari Fig
There is a debate about which comes first (no, not that age-old chicken/egg one), the chocolate vs whisky one! And it was great how instead of choosing one way, they switched it up depending on which set we were on and how they thought the two would be be experienced. Sometimes we were instructed to try the whisky first, other times we started with the chocolate. I found that I preferred to start with the whisky because I really enjoyed how the fats in the chocolate changed the whisky when I went back for a post-chocolate sip. (This was my whisky-piphany #1).
The Pacari ambassador explained that when eating a fine chocolate, to rub a piece in between your fingers first. This warms the chocolate and starts releasing some of the oils and fragrances. Second, smell the chocolate. Next, place it on your tongue and let it continue melting. Don’t chew and swallow quickly – let the chocolate roll around in your mouth just the way you do with whisky. Experience the velvety bite in all sections of your palate and then when you have a nice thin layer covering your tongue, go ahead a re-visit your whisky.
The introduction of the alcohol to the fat molecules in the chocolates release new compounds that you wouldn’t have experienced without the other. THIS was the most exciting discovery to me. After going through these steps for the second pairing, in the midst of the 3rd Clay suggested I go back and try the Compass Box Hedonism. There was an explosion of jasmine present in the whisky that was not there previously. And since our table was often jumping in to the larger conversation, Clay opened this idea up to the room and it was so cool to watch most people go back to their Hedonism and get giddy with the same discovery.
This happened in reverse on the first tasting as well, when starting with the chocolate then whisky, when most went back to the chocolate – there was a distinct rich apricot/tart berry flavor that was coming out which was not there when either the chocolate or whisky was consumed on their own. AWESOME.
My second whisky-piphany was when Derek (the classical musician) suggested that Brahm’s Sextex in G-major would be the perfect audio pairing for the Aberlouer A’Bunadh & Pacari 65% Manabi regional varietal combination. What?! Why have I not explored this notion deeper in the past? (By the way, the song at the top of this post is just that, Brahm’s Sextex in G-major Movement I).
As whisky analyzers, we pay attention (& often record) all of our other senses, sight, smell, taste & mouth feel, but what about sound? In the past, I always preferred to analyze my tastings in silence (though when I’m just sitting around enjoying whisky, I do enjoy a good flow of music and/or conversation!) But I’m curious to know, are there any specific artists, songs or genres of music that you enjoy listening to while drinking whisky, either generally, by style or by specific dram?
Sound is a vibration, a pulse, movement. As a former classical ballerina, I remember going (or often dragging) myself to class, emotionally drained from whatever else had gone on that day or night before. But the moment the pianist would play a chord on the piano, I would be transported to the present. To my time in space. I would feel the wood of the ballet barre under my hand and wake-up to where I was and what I was about to do. I love that Derek took one sip of a whisky and knew exactly which piece of music he wanted to be listening to at that moment. Is anyone out there exploring specific drams + songs?
At one point during the ongoing conversation at our little table, Clay Gordon noted an interesting difference in how we experience chocolate verses whisky. He said that whisky is often a very analytical experience, whereas when adults taste chocolate, our personal experiences with chocolate are rooted to emotional connections that we have had since childhood.
I never thought about my chocolate this way – and while I see his point (we all probably can’t remember our first bite of chocolate but can remember our first sip of whisky!) I will say that I think whisk(e)y is probably the spirit that most people have the strongest connection with emotionally. I think many people, positively or negatively, consciously or unconsciously, have a historical association to whisky. I’ve heard lots of people at my tastings say a variation of: “Oh I like/don’t like <fill in the blank> style of whisky because that’s what <fill in family member> use to drink and <fill in anecdotal story of smelling or tasting it as a child> which is why I think I like/don’t like whisky today.”
If you’d like to share your thoughts below, I’d be curious to hear from you on this point too. Do you have a past memory or nostalgic feeling to whisky or any other spirit? Do you think that influences your preferences now?
Thanks for sticking with me to the end of this post! I’m so proud of Josh – it was a remarkable evening. I learned so much about chocolate (for another day!) and truly loved the pairings listed above. I hope Josh continues with these events and that I’m able to attend many, many more! THANK YOU, JOSH!
And now, for a little showing of just how fun of a night it truly was!
December 17, 2012 § 4 Comments
To say I’m excited is a MASSIVE understatement – I am STOKED to ring in 2013! And I really hope a lot of you are deciding right this moment to party in New York City this year … and here’s why.
The Flatiron Room – the very new 500+ whisky bar who just snagged Heather Greene of William & Grant ambassador fame as the only whisky sommelier in the city – is hosting the party of the night. And I can’t WAIT.
Here are the details provided by TFR’s owner, my good friend, and fellow whisky geek, Tommy Tardie:
- Introductory Signature Cocktail made with Brenne Whiskey (editor’s note: woo hoo!)
- Herb Focaccia with smoked white fish (w/ Compass Box Asyla)
- Beet Salad with panko-fried goat cheese and hazelnut-mint vinaigrette (w/ Scott’s Independent Bottling of Auchentochen)
- Spicy crab ravioli with a moroccan date cream sauce (w/ Glenfiddich Rum Cask 21)
- Creamy bourbon-vanilla bean panacotta w/ lemon granita (w/ New Yorks Dutch’s Moonshine Spirit)
- Braised Short ribs with mixed berry bbq sauce served over sunchoke puree (w/ Michters 10)
- Single Malt Chocolate Malted Shake (w/ Glenmorangie Signet)
- Midnight Toast: Bowmore 18
TWO SEATING OPTIONS:
- 7pm – 10pm: $145 per person (tax and gratuity included)
- 10:30pm – 1:30am: $195 per person (tax and gratuity included)
• Live Entertainment – You’ll be entertained with live prohibition style jazz.
• 6 Course Tasting Menu – Our Executive Chef Susan Burdian has created a special 6 course tasting menu. Each dish will be plated and presented to share with your party.
• Whiskey Pairing – Our in-house whiskey sommelier Heather Greene has carefully selected 6 drams of fine whiskey to be paired with each food dish. We think you’ll be delighted to see how they interact and compliment each other. A tasting chart and notes will accompany your meal.
• Bottle of Perrier Jouët Champagne – 1 bottle per 2 guests
• Complimentary Coat Check
• Party Hats & Favors
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!!!