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!!!
November 28, 2012 § 3 Comments
First – please tweet and re-tweet this. It’s extremely important!
As many of you know, my beloved New York City & the surrounding areas were recently hit very badly with Hurricane Sandy. Personally, we were without power, heat & cell towers for 5 days. Business came to a screeching halt and I’ve been trying to re-coup ever since. My 101yr old grandmother’s beach cottage on the NJ Shore was completely destroyed. What’s left of the roof is being held up almost entirely by one single 2×4. The bed pushed through the structure and is sitting partially on the street, the couch is in whatever is left in her tiny kitchen. The home will have to be leveled and there were very few mementos that were salvageable. It may sound “fancy” to say that this was our family’s modest vacation home but anyone who owns property knows the kind of investment that is and the kind of sacrifices you do to make that happen. The little money my Grandparents saved during their years working as a school teacher (her) and an insurance sales man (him) they invested in this humble property with the intention of passing it down through the generations. Like my father, I spent my childhood summers there with my sisters and cousins and it’s a place our family retired to every chance we had.
Our home BEFORE the storm:
Our home AFTER Hurricane Sandy
But as sad and as hard as the recovery will be for my family – we didn’t even get hit with the worst of it. There are many people who lost their permanent homes or who couldn’t return to their homes for weeks due to flooding and unsafe conditions. These people were living in the shelters set up in the NYC public schools. The conditions were terrible – it was not like a ‘forced camping vacation’ by any stretch of the imagination. Many more people were stranded for weeks inside their apartments – especially the elderly and disabled – who couldn’t climb the 5, 12, 15 or more flights of stairs to get in or out of their apartments. They were stranded with no running water, no way to flush their toilets, no heat or food.
There are many recovery efforts underway but you all know how this typically goes … it’s hard for the money to get to the people who really need it.
Not this time! The whisky community of NYC has rallied together with the amazing leadership of Robin Robinson, the wonderful brand ambassador of Compass Box to unselfishly put together a benefit: a combination 2hr whisky tasting and auction to raise money for the incredible Tunnel2Towers organization.
Here’s the info on the tasting portion of the evening
Here’s the info on the INCREDIBLE list of whiskies available at the auction
Just LOOK at that list!!!!! There are some bottles that will be available for auction that are rarely, if ever, available anywhere else in the world. People have dug down deep into their private collections to donate some truly remarkable whiskies.
We need to continue to rally. This is going down THIS SUNDAY
4-6pm @ Astor Wines & Spirits
399 Lafayette St. , (at E 4th), NY, NY 10003
I’ll be there pouring Brenne! It’s only $25 to enter and enjoy what will be an incredible 2 hour tasting & auction event. Come one, come all! Support the rebuilding of the greater New York area!
Please share this with anyone you may think might be interested in attending. (And seriously, when else can you attend a whisky tasting event in NYC like this one for only $25?!?)
With love and many thanks,
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.
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.
October 10, 2012 § 11 Comments
It’s so cool when your friends take that plunge, break from that steady paycheck, and jump off the cliff of stability into the unknown but exciting world of entrepreneurship. One such friend, the amazing & always inspiring Nicholas Pollacchi, has recently taken the dive.
You know Nicholas as the former Brand Ambassador for Balvenie (he’s the one who is always in a beautiful suit, speaks with a thick Scottish accent, wears a welcoming smile & always give a generous pour) and we watched as he rocked it out driving across the US multiple times for the Balvenie Rare Craft Road Shows.
He recently started his own company, The Whisky Dog, curating bespoke whisky experiences. Most of his impeccably tailored events are private but for a few lucky dogs, you too can have your chance to participate next week in NYC.
Here are the details:
September 28, 2012 § 27 Comments
As many of you know, I have produced Brenne, a French Single Malt whisky that’s been finished in Cognac barrels. It’s been the most incredible journey I have ever been on and have been so excited I shake & do random, spur of the moment “happy dances” with myself and anyone close enough to join in the fun (or run like hell, depending on their level of personal comfort) 😉
Today we are launching in the “soft-opening” phase giving Caskers.com (who I recently interviewed HERE) the exclusive pre-sale listing. At 11am EST, Brenne Estate Cask will officially go on sale – but it’s a private sale so make sure you click HERE and use the invitation code: WHISKYWOMAN
Officially launching Monday, October 1st – Brenne will be available at some of New York City’s top restaurants & bars and boutique whisky shops. As a true “1 Woman Whisky Show,” in addition to doing barrel management, production management, shipping logistics, importing, distributing, sales, marketing, social media, etc by myself … I also built the Brenne website* and will be continually updating www.DrinkBrenne.com with the latest accounts who will carry this most special & unique malt!
I hope all of you get to try it soon and can’t thank you all enough for the support you have given me throughout this amazing process. This is only the beginning!!!
NOSE: almond, vanilla, apricot, apples, anise, sugar cookie, dark chocolate, hint of perfume
PALATE: chocolate covered orange peels, butter, warm spices, vanilla bean
FINISH: long & lingering, starts to dissipate then returns for a final kick of pink peppercorns, cloves & burnt caramel
*Side note to those of you who are more technically advanced than I am, any web changes/upgrades/thoughts are welcome! Some of you have already been super helpful in giving me some tips & hints, which I have been applying gradually as I increase my understanding of how to build web sites. Sincerest THANKS to you.