I know many of you expected this article to arrive sooner or later… I was fortunate enough (or incredibly lucky) to meet and work alongside Allison Patel, the talented American-born founder of Brenne, a pretty unique 100% French Single Malt. We were indeed showing her malted jewel to the French crowds at the first-ever French Spirits Fair, Quintessence, held in Paris a few days ago, and received tons of amazing [and well deserved ;)] feedbacks!
As I personally -deeply- fell in love with Brenne (Fun Fact : The name “Brenne” comes from a kind of running gag between Allison & its French Cognac-based producer around Allison’s mispronunciation of “brain d’herbe”, French term refering to a piece of grass – which lead to many giggles between the two partners) at first sip, I’m more than glad to share this mellow treasure with you!
Allison Patel and her husband Nital shared a passion for food and drink has immersed them in cultures all over the world. Making an effort to visit local markets, wineries, and distilleries in their travels, they have developed an appreciation of great taste experiences, especially with their favorite category: whisky. Years ago while on a slew of international business trips, Nital would frequently call his wife (often waking her up in the middle of the night due to time differences!) to tell her about all of the amazing whiskies he tasted. After failing to find many of these “non- traditional” whiskies in the US, Allison took into own her hands and started setting up an import/ export company for this sole purpose.
While exploring the world whisky scene for something “new”, Allison encountered a third generation Cognac producer who had started distilling a unique Single Malt at his farm distillery in the heart of Cognac, France. At that time, a majority of the oldest whisky was around three to four years old in new French Limousin oak barrels. Upon tasting it, Allison immediately knew it was something special. She and the distiller collaborated over a span of three and a half years to refine the aging spirit and continue laying down more barrels as each year’s crop of barley was ready to be harvested. A breakthrough occurred when Allison decided to incorporate his previously used Cognac casks in the whisky aging process. This stimulated the whisky in a beautiful way; ultimately creating a new profile within the Single Malt category that became Brenne Whisky.
What really stroke me about Allison, is her unique approach and interesting external point of view when it comes to French whisky. Indeed, back in the early 2000s, French whisky couldn’t be described as a “category” (still not really the case today but we’re slowly moving in this direction…). At that time, French distilleries were more producing some sort of Scotch copycats rather than typical French whisky. According to its centuries-old distillation traditions and its taste for fine spirits (and especially whisky!), Allison justly thought France needed a whisky which would reflect its territory, its traditions and people.
“As in wine, I think there is still so much to be explored with terroir in whisky.”
“Brenne, to me, is a perfect example of what can happen if you work with the earth and culture around you. The result of which has created a wonderfully smooth, approachable and elegant single malt. I hope that it offers those new to whisky an easy entry point and for those who are experienced, I hope that Brenne gives them a totally new experience and continues to open up their minds to all of the possibilities that this wonderful spirit can offer.” (connosr)
Produced from local raw materials (including organic barley straight from the property) by a third-generation producer, twice distilled in Charente stills (cognac stills) and matured in both new Limousin oak barrels and cognac barrels, Brenne is Charente in a bottle!
“I didn’t develop this to be a gimmick. It’s the farthest thing from that (and doesn’t taste anything like Scotch)! Instead, it is a whisky that fully embraces the terroir and culture of the Cognac region in France. Once I let people know that Brenne is not mass-produced and is really only handled by simply the distiller and myself, then their curiosity takes over and once they try it, they are often happily surprised!”
Brenne is bottled at 40% ABV and aged for around 7/8 years
[/!\ I’ve not been that enthusiastic concerning a French whisky since a long time!
[This thrilling review may sounds like I’m getting paid but be sure this is all free-of-charge compliments!]
Nose : rounded, sugary and incredibly fruity. The nose is as elegant and sweet as its founder (The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree?) and present incredible notes of banana, bubblegum, candied apples, vanilla cupcakes, cinnamon & all things pastries… I really feel like a child in a French-style bakery here, immerged in a world of sweet aromas and struggling to decide whether I should go for candies or croissants…. Brenne gives you both!
Palate: surprising, a unique light and creamy nectar still showing those sugary notes from the nose. Aromas of crème brûlée, toffee, tropical fruits, malted barley reflect the Cognac influence and create a refined & gourmet whisky, perfectly enjoyable neat, approachable for novices but also utterly interesting to sample for whisky enthusiasts & experts alike. (If France really tastes like Brenne, I must admit I’m more than proud to be a frog!)
Finish: sweet and lingering with chocolate & caramel notes – the kind of “I NEED SOME MORE” finish.