June 4, 2014 § 2 Comments
Hello! It’s that time of year again! Father’s Day is around the corner and I’m sharing some of my top picks for your whisky-loving Dad! This year I’ve decided to showcase a highbrow and lowbrow option for the each item – hope you enjoy!
Feel free to share some of your favorite whisky gifts in the comments below (no sales pitches, please).
SANDS OF TIME
To me, sipping on a nice single malt is all about the appreciation of time. The time it took to make the elegant spirit, the time we have now, the time we get to surround ourselves with those we love. Get your Dad an hourglass for him to peacefully reflect on the essence of time over his next a good dram!
HIGHBROW: Restoration Hardware Vintage Brass Hourglass ($249-$299 USD)
LOWBROW: CB2 Hourglass ($9.95 – $29.95 usd)
So you want to make some cocktails, eh? Well I think that’s a grand idea! Why not practice and hone your skills together for some quality father + daughter or son bonding time?
HIGHBROW: Private Mixology Classes by Liquid Lab NYC (price upon request)
LOWBROW: The Ultimate Bar Book; The Comprehensive Guide to Over 1000 Cocktails ($8.63- $11.57 usd)
CRYSTAL CLEAR ACCOUTREMENT
Help make his home bar brilliant with the clean lines and the sparkly shine of cut crystal or hand-blown glass! At our home, we always have at least 1 decanter filled at all times with the “help yourself” whisky (the geeky ones tend to stay in their respective bottles).
HIGHBROW: Waterford Designer Studio 2012 Copper Coast Whiskey Decanter and 4 Rocks Glasses ($2,300 usd)
LOWBROW: Lexington Whiskey Decanter ($69.95 usd)
DON’T FORGET THE WHISKEY / WHISKY!
No Father’s Day or family gathering would be complete without a great bottle of Single Malt to share! Don’t forget to pick one up or have one delivered to your husband, Papa & Grandfather this Father’s Day!
HIGHBROW: Macallan Lalique ($37,000 usd)
MEDIUM BROW: Brenne French Single Malt Whisky ($55-$65 usd) <Come on … how could I NOT include it? 😀
LOWBROW: Tasting Sample of Ben Nevis 21 ’90 Ruby Bottling Note ($16 usd for 3cl)
This concludes my 2014’s Father’s Day Gift Guide. There are plenty of awesome whisky-related items out there to discover and you can take a look back through my other gift guides (collected onto a single page HERE).
Most importantly, to all Dad’s, soon-to-be Father’s, Grandparents, Godparents, Uncles and more; a most sincere Happy Father’s Day from yours truly!
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!***
January 7, 2014 § 9 Comments
With the record low temperatures we’re having, I thought there no better time then now to share some of my FAVORITE Hot Toddy recipes using Brenne whisky!
The classic Hot Toddy is made with hot water (tea optional), lemon, honey and either whiskey, brandy or rum. I like to kick it up a bit and use a more complex tea that I think would complement the specific aged spirit that I’ll be adding. And there’s definitely a correlation between us whisky geeks and our deep appreciation for fun teas!
Brenne is a much more fruit-forward, floral & creamy Single Malt which lends itself especially well to Toddy’s, particularly if you make them with black teas that hint of orange, vanilla, cinnamon, burnt sugar, lavender … you get the idea! Below are 2 of my favorite recipes but feel free to play around using different teas and reversing the garnishes!
BRENNE CHAI TODDY
- 4oz Brenne French Single Malt Whisky
- ½ cup hot tea made with Chai-spiced black tea
- 1 tbs honey
- 1 thick slice of orange
- Cloves (to stick into the side of the orange wheel, as many as desired)
BRENNE ORANGE TEA TODDY
- 4oz Brenne French Single Malt Whisky
- ½ cup hot tea made with orange pekoe black tea
- 1 tbs honey
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1-3 star anise
- Wide lemon peel (to garnish)
*Also try these two Brenne Toddy’s with opposite garnishes and spices!*
Now that we’ve established the recipes, let’s break down the (VERY EASY) steps! While you’re reading, go ahead and put the kettle on the stove and start bringing the water up to boil … And we’re off!
HOW TO MAKE A HOT TODDY
- Pull together all of your ingredients while the water is heating up.
- In your favorite heat-proof drinking vessel, pour about 1/2 cup of hot water over your desired tea. Let steep for a few minutes while you work on your garnishes (poking cloves into your orange slice, carefully peeling that extra long wide lemon peel, etc)
- Remove the tea and add the honey – stirring to mix
- Pour in the whisky
- Relax and enjoy!
Share your favorite Hot Toddy recipes below or with me on twitter! @whiskygirls
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 30, 2013 § 19 Comments
The title of this post could go in a few different directions, however, today it encapsulates the reflective feeling I have over these last few years and the birth of Brenne.
Stop and smell the Whisky.
This has been quite a crazy 3+ years of my life. But I could say that about most periods of my life; I’m a very focused, all-in kind of person so there are times (like this “whisky” phase) that feel like I’ve been in it longer then I actually have. 3+ years you say? That’s all? (that’s how I feel when I think about my relatively short time here, I could have sworn I’ve been doing this for at least 7yrs).
Last week I was being interviewed by a talented journalist for a rather impressive piece of press (out this coming Sunday, fingers crossed it’s good!). I’m not a person who gets nervous too often and thus was confused when I struggled though the entire interview to put the words together to properly express myself. And then I realized, he kept asking me “when did it all begin?” and truthfully, there is no actual date on the calendar that I could give anyone as to when “Brenne” started. It “started” many times!
To this day, I can’t remember when & how I was first introduced to my distiller (despite it being probably one of the more important moments of my life!), nor do I even really remember a single moment when I said, “Ok, we’re doing this!” I feel like I woke up one day and was buying glass bottles in 6,000 piece order quantities as if this was a very normal thing to be doing. If you’ve ever heard me tell my story, it probably comes across as me being far focused on this particular outcome then it actually was. That is because there are so many different starting points of Brenne that I have to streamline the story and edit out all of the additional beginnings to spare you a long story full of extraneous tangents (but NOT today!). There are two main narratives here: the story of the whisky itself (where it’s made, what kind of still is used to make it, what barrels are used during the aging, etc) AND THEN there is the story of how I became the captain of this ship (and where the heck did I come from!?). Today I’ll be sharing with you the story of my involvement. If I had to draw it, I think the beginning of Brenne would look like this unraveled piece of rope with lots of “ends” … or in my case, beginnings.
So when I wrote “Stop and Smell the Whisky” – I thought not of smelling an actual glass of whisky (though that would be nice!) but rather because during the course of the interview, I was forced to stop, look at a calendar, and actually take into account certain days/years when this whole thing really began. I feel like I’ve been doing this now for years but the reality set in that I’ve really have only been at this for just a few!
BRENNE BEGINNING(S!); The Very Long Version of How Brenne Came to Be
I was working in an entirely different industry at the time (high-end jewelry) but even when I started there 3.5 years prior, I told my employer that I was going to have my own company one day, probably by the time I was 30 (I was 25 at the time). However, I had no idea what that was going to be, exactly.
Through my time there, I had really fallen in love with selling beautiful jewels to a lot of wonderful women across the US. In that tiny, 3 person company, we moved a LOT of gold and even increased sales 800% while in a recession (true number, it was ridiculous)! But always in the back of my mind was: what was going to be my mark on the world? I want to do this for my own company! … just not with diamonds.
Meanwhile, my husband was traveling the world for work (he is a branding consultant … and yes, this comes in VERY handy later on as we built the framework for Brenne!). While on the road (or rather, the many planes) he was getting himself (and me!) more and more interested in the Japanese whiskies that he was enjoying on frequent trips to Korea. This was just before people in the US started to really talk about Japanese whiskies – and well before Suntory (& eventually Nikka) started expanding their US imports. All the time my husband kept saying, “you should really import this stuff!”
At first I laughed it off – what did I know about importing whisky!? Nothing – actually. But I had started doing international sourcing (of gold & diamonds) in my current job and felt comfortable learning a new industry language after I realized the general framework was similar (except with alcohol, you could tack on about 1000 times more restrictions and legal twists & turns). So there I was, starting to formulate my own ideas on what I enjoyed in a single malt. What, to me, made one more enjoyable over the other? And as soon as I realized that simple question existed, my geek-dome exploded and scientific hunger of finding the answers took over (I blame my family – I was predisposed to being a nerd! Dad is a physicist, Aunts’ a rocket scientist, Uncle’s a nuclear scientist, 2 cousins are chemists,… need I go on?). I was a full blown whisky-geek before my friends even knew I drank whisky.
HELLO WHISKY FREAK!
Things in the company where I was working started to take a turn for the worse (and fast) and soon I realized that my time there had come to an end. Meanwhile, my husband was still a driving force in this whisky import company idea, and for the fun of it, I had started connecting with some of the world whisky distillers and importers out there. At one point we had taken a trip to Asia and scribbled down on a cocktail napkin what eventually morphed into the Local Infusions’ business plan. (In my Lifetime movie, this is where they’d cut to commercial break!) This is definitely one of those rope ends of the true starting points of Brenne! Somewhere in there we were tipped off to the 3rd generation Cognac distiller who was making what has now become Brenne. I never really believed what he was telling me was true (how could someone really be making whisky with no intention to sell it!? That’s so … NOT American!) and thus almost let my disbelief close the door on this forever. But we then started receiving samples from our distiller… and the juice was really promising! What we were trying at that point in time was about 3 & 4+ years old in New French Oak casks. Still – I did nothing with it.
By now, I had quit my job in the jewelry biz and declared a mandatory “2 weeks off” … from what, you ask? Nothing. Because I had no job lined up <-not a typical “Allison” move, but definitely another life-changing moment for from that break, I came out on the other end saying, “Ok, I’m either starting a popcorn company” (yup, no one really knew about that one either) “OR a whisky company!” (also not something my friends & family were expecting). Within a few hours the whisky company idea had won (as if there was ever any real competition!).
FOLLOW YOUR HEART and GUT
It was at that point that we started asking our distiller “friend” if we could try moving this whisky into his ex-Cognac casks. Again, when I tell this story I’m sure I sound very confident in this decision as if this had been our plan all along, but clearly, it hadn’t. And I really don’t know where the idea of ex-Cognac casks came from other than I followed my gut instinct as I was piecing together this crazy story of this near-secret whisky stash in Cognac, France. And it just felt like a really good idea – especially when I thought about how this whisky had been developed right there in Cognac starting with the barley that he grew himself. Funny enough, to this day, he (my distiller) is still far less impressed with how he’s made this then I am. To him, it’s “obvious” that if you want to make a high quality spirit, you must do it from scratch. What other way is there? To him, elegant spirits start with the seeds + the earth. Then you go from there.
While “Brenne” (in quotes because it hadn’t been named at this point) was being moved over into Cognac casks, I spent most of my time in NYC glued to my computer and phone, learning (also from scratch!) how to structurally set up my company within the 1,000’s of complicated layers known as post-prohibition laws. From the Federal level down to all 50 states, there is not one division who makes this easy. You can certainly pay to have a consultant figure this out for you – but if I’m putting my own money into this (let’s be frank: ALL of my own money into this dream), well then you better believe I’m going to put my money where my mouth is and learn everything I can. Otherwise, how else can I properly run this thing once it’s off the ground? It’s like buying a car without knowing how to change a tire or fill a tank of gas. Sure, you can always spend up and have someone else do the work for you, but if you don’t mind getting a little dirty, you can save yourself some big bucks. And at the end of the day, this has to be about the bottom line or else I won’t make it past Day 1.
LOCAL INFUSIONS IS READY
Once I got the import business set up (Local Infusions), then I realized the whisky (Brenne) still wasn’t ready – not to my palate at least (and then also Captin Doubt was still hanging around: did we REALLY want to do this? We could still drop this whole idea and ‘just’ be out some money – but no one would have to know! Me owning and producing a Single Malt Whisky from France still sounded totally foreign to me. Who the heck was I to be doing this?! Why had no one done this before? Because no one thought of it or because they had and realized this was just a terrible idea?). Insomnia and I became very good friends at this point.
In terms of barrel “management” (also known as a glorified taste tester) I spent many Saturday mornings with my nose in about 20 different Glencarin glasses of Brenne (& other assorted Single Malts for comparison) trying to take advantage of that prime-time when your sense of smell is the purest but a bed is nearby should the tasting part get a bit overwhelming pre-coffee! I was all self-taught and completely trusting my senses (as was my husband, Nital Patel, who was the biggest and best supporter behind this little engine!) but I just didn’t think the whisky was “there” yet and couldn’t put my name on something without it being as close to perfect as I could get it. So there I was with a fully set up business and no whisky to bottle (thus, no hope of any income anytime soon!). Cool! So to start somewhere, I now had some really awesome like-minded importer friends around the world who were telling me they were interested in trying some of these new American Craft Whiskies that were getting some buzz. This was early 2011 – Balcones wasn’t even distributed in New York at that point. I told the importers I knew that if they trusted me, I’d find them the best of the best and bring them not only brands who had something good in the bottle, but who were making it themselves and who had aesthetically pleasing packaging.
EXPORTING AMERICAN CRAFT WHISKEY
So began my 1.5 year stint as an American Craft Whiskey exporter. This got to be very expensive for a very little return. Between the cost of translators, international sample shipping costs and travel, I was coming in around $0 balance. But on the plus side, I had made some awesome friends on the American distilling side (finally!) and had launched Balcones in Norway, Sweden & re-lauched them in the UK. I almost got them signed up in France and Japan but at that point, the income didn’t support the work and Brenne was getting ready to be born. Though the funding was slim, at least I had some confidence knowing that I’d had some early wins in this new industry (still ridiculously close-lipped about Brenne).
BRENNE – the brand – COMES TO LIFE
So in January ’12, I shifted gears from exporting to developing the Brenne brand and put on my best creative director hat as I interviewed & eventually worked with designers to bring Brenne to life. After 6+ months of designing, TTB approvals, cork sourcing, bottle making, pallet treating, label material choosing (and of course, one final trip to Cognac before we start bottling …you know, to check on those aging casks!) in June of ’12, I started buying all of the pieces that were needed to pull this dream together so that on September 5, 2012, the first 8 barrels were bottled and Brenne was “born” – officially launching on October 1, 2012 in New York City.
10 months after Brenne’s launch date I sit here totally amused at where life has taken me – from a ballerina to owning a whisky brand (and an import company!). And though I’m not the distiller, I do own 100% of the whisky to come out of that distillery (of which currently only goes into Brenne Estate Cask) and life has truly never been more fun (or scary and demanding…but that much I expected). I definitely don’t choose the easy roads in life, but I follow my heart at each turn.
The rest … well … perhaps we’ll have to save that for another day! Thanks for sticking with me if you made it to the bottom of this post! It’s a lot more wordy than my typical entries but hopefully somewhat entertaining!
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!)