“I can never forget my complete surprise at how beautiful it was and how easy it went down! It was love at first sip. That was all it took…I have never looked back since.” – Allison Patel
Allison Patel is the creator of Brenne Whisky and founder of Manhattan-based Local Infusions, which imports and exports fine spirits such as whisky. She is also a passionate blogger on The Whisky Woman, writing about everything from cocktails to great whiskies, bourbons, American distilleries and more.
When did you first start drinking whisky?
In the summer of 2008.
What dram changed you into a whisky drinker?
Yamazaki 18yr. I still remember the exact moment!
My husband and I thought it would be fun to book a room in a new hotel one summer weekend just a couple of miles from where we live in Manhattan. We wanted to explore the financial district like we were tourists – except that my husband had been trolling the blogs for a week to find a couple of great, lesser-known bars.
Naturally, the best bar he had found was a whisky bar, called Vintry Wine & Whisky. We were sitting outside at these long picnic tables, snacking on salty meats & cheese. He wanted to treat himself and ordered the Yamazaki 18yr (I had ordered a glass of wine) but what ended up happening was that I drank the whisky and my poor husband got stuck with my rosé!
I can never forget my complete surprise at how beautiful it was and how easy it went down! It was love at first sip. That was all it took…I have never looked back since.
What do you like most about whisky?
The smell. The taste. The community. The exploration. The artistry. The patience and time it takes to make just one cask of pure, delicious, darkened joy!
Why would you encourage someone to start drinking whisky?
The short answer: It’s delicious!!!
The long answer: I understand that it can be intimidating but it’s a very supportive community and one where it’s totally cool to speak with any knowledgeable bartender or whisky specialist and say, “Hey, I really know nothing about whisky but I’m learning (or want to learn!). Can you make some recommendations for me?” Believe me, you will be welcomed with open arms.
Furthermore, whisky is a lot easier to understand than wine – there are far less varieties! Also, this is not a snobby industry – the people who love whisky come from all walks of life and are where they are, and know what they know, because they simply love the spirit. I think that point alone is reason enough to start exploring!
May I also say…check the attitude at the door. This is not the place for snobbery, disrespect or attention-grabbing men or women (we all know the type). Just be cool, come as you are, and enjoy the amazing ride.
Do you feel more women should or could be involved in the industry?
I think anyone who loves whisky should work in the industry: man, woman or other. If you’re smart and passionate, welcome aboard!
Have you had any funny incidences involving people being shocked by your love of whisky?
All the time! Not only do I love whisky, but I’m a total geek about it and wear my whisky heart on my sleeve! There are many women involved in the spirits industry, not just whiskies, but when I show up to a meeting – particularly a sales meeting – I’m really there to share some amazing whiskies with people who I think might be interested and ready to geek-out with me. I’m not there to try and hit a monthly sales goal or just sell whatever I can to whomever I can.
But, I am always told that they did not expect “me” to show up. I interpret that as being that they didn’t expect a woman who can
throw-down with them, get psyched and talk whisky.
It’s exhilarating to find people who share your passions (and watch their faces morph as they start to realize just who they’re sitting with!).
Why do you think whisky is still viewed as a “male” drink?
Hollywood. Lots of leading men order single malts, pour themselves a glass of Scotch, and celebrate or relax with whisky in hand on the big screen. Socially, it’s still not thought of as a lady’s drink because it’s not girly and, frankly, it’s not for everyone.
There will never be an umbrella sticking out of a whisky cocktail (or at least I hope not). But I think as more and more women realize they actually like it, this male-only view will change.
You import fine whiskies into the US – which ones tend to sell best across the pond?
I see two main trends happening in the US right now.
I think we are going to see more international whiskies in 2012 – beyond the traditional Scotch, Irish & Canadian ones. Think: more French and Japanese whiskies. There are some great independent distillers doing some very interesting things in these two countries that I’m really looking forward to exploring.
The other trend is the American craft movement which has been following on the heels of the craft beer movement. I will say, though, that the movement needs a strong, outspoken leader (or organisation) who will help define the craft distilling industry. There are too many distilleries calling themselves “craft” but instead of making the whisky from grain to spirit (which is how the
end consumer defines “craft”), they’re buying in bulk from the big whisky producers and either: a) passing it through their stills once or twice and then into a barrel; or, b) dumping it straight into one of their barrels for “X amount” of time and saying that they made it. I have a big problem with false advertising.
It’s totally fine (and legal) to buy whiskies from someone else and finish the process however you’d like – just be honest with your consumer (and yourself!) and don’t try to jump on a trend just so you can make a quick buck.
What is your favourite memory of whisky drinking?
I have three!
– My first straight-from-the-barrel sample in the stock house at the Balcones distillery with the head distiller, Chip Tate.
– Sampling the Van Winkle series with Julian and Preston Van Winkle!
– Drinking the latest releases of Kornog & Glann ar Mor in the Celtic Whisky Compagnie distillery with head distiller, Jean Donnay, while slurping oysters and looking out at the calm, retreating sea and bright blue sky… ahhhh.
I can close my eyes and instantly re-live any one of these moments.
Do you have a favourite winter dram?
Hmmm, can I just say “whisky” ??? Every day is different! I change my whiskies as often as I change my shoes.