Whisky is an interesting product and has a vibrant community around it because, in my opinion, it has the ability to tell a story and connect with diverse groups of people. Part of its ability to connect with people comes from the obvious connection to Scotland and the Romanticism of this beautiful landscape and colourful history. The other part of the jigsaw is in the ability to innovate and allow a spectrum of flavours and styles within the heading “Whisk(e)y”.
The scope for this is far wider in countries other than Scotland as it happens. In Canada pretty much anything goes and maple syrup is added to more than a couple of them. In other countries you see exotic wood types being used and a mixed reception as a result. All these little nuggets of interest and variety all add up to make a hobby which is pure escapism for me against my daily grind.
I say all this because Brenne Cuvee is one of those whiskies which is outside the mould. The Brenne brand was started in 2012 by Alison Parc who is an American woman who came across a Cognac distiller who was playing around making some whisky for the hell of it and without any big master plan for what to do with it.
Alison is a well known woman and entrepreneur who blogs at thewhiskywoman.wordpress.com but back in 2012 she wasn’t as well known and didn’t know if her adventure into whisky production would work out. Being a retired ballerina her original plan was to be an importer of craft, unusual and interesting whisky into America. On coming across the whisky which would become Brenne the plan changed and the rest is history. Her blog chronicles the journey of Brenne and her life from 2012 to now and is an interesting read if you want more information.
The interesting thing is that Brenne has only recently dropped into the UK market. The first two markets were America and France which generally have quite different sweeter palates than Asian or UK markets. In her blog Alison suggests sales in America were and are above expectations. The brand seems to be strong in those original markets and at least part of that comes from the natural marketing and sales ability of the director Alison. Her natural charisma and lifestyle blogging drive Brenne to be an aspirational brand which is the kind of thing Apple and Bose do very well.
In the UK a bottle comes in at around £55 which doesn’t include a box for the bottle. The bottling strength is 40% which is disappointing given the strength. In my opinion, Brenne would do well to remember they are not Balvenie or Dalmore and cannot get away with such strength to price ratios.
It is available from the big online retailers but I haven’t seen it in local shops at all. This observation coupled with the premium pricing suggests to me that Brenne do not have a large amount of stock available so need to increase unit margins to make the business work. Perhaps though its worth the premium to have something French and different which has been matured completely in ex-cognac barrels. I did afterall really enjoy the Port Charlotte which had a Cognac Finish Port Charlotte 2007 CC:01
Colour – pale yellow
Nose – bananas and caramel sauce. Bubblegum slushpuppies and banana foam sweets is perhaps a more accurate representation though. There is just something chemically and acetone like in the background which gives an industrial edge to the nose.
Palate – The texture is thin and watery which gives a very disappointing mouth coating. In terms of flavours though it is completely linear from the nose. bananas, caramel and bubblegum. The chemically note is replaced with a bitter astringent development.
Finish – Like the palate the finish is short and disappointing. The same pattern is also maintained so you have a sweet confectionery beginning before the end goes astringent and harsh. That bitterness develops to dominant as the bottle goes down and tastes like antibiotics.
Brenne Cuvee is like nothing I have ever tasted in my whisky journey and for that I am satisfied to have tried it. I won’t however be buying another bottle because there is little to be gained from experiencing it again. Which is especially true given the price which is about £20 too expensive. Try a sample to say you have tried it because I don’t think a whole bottle will give you £55 worth of value.