By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer
I begin my weekly column with the thought that went through my mind just prior to finding out from my wonderful editor if this topic was of interest. Thankfully it was.
"Greetings my friend. I'd love to write about Brenne in this week's journey into the heart and soul of the cocktail… It will be with fresh lime/lemon juice, raw honey simple syrup and a vodka wash from Barr Hill at Caledonia Spirits, lemon bitters from The Bitter Truth and a splash of Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water in Lime Essence."
Sometimes I wake up in the morning having had vivid, colorful dreams about liquid pleasures (yes, I dream in color) and last night was no exception. I thought of a tall drink made vividly aromatic through freshly squeezed juices and deeply flavored through the Whisky from France named Brenne.
Brenne is a most unique whisky, it is not made in the style of Scotch, nor does it attempt to emulate the boisterous fashion of Bourbon. It most certainly is not Tennessee "sippin'" whiskey in style or nose. Brenne defies the imagination and stimulates the senses.
She is a sensual creature, this bottle of Whisky, and she takes time and patience to unlock her mesmeric nature. This is carefully crafted liquid pleasure that does not seek to reproduce any other spirit on the market. It is neither candy flavored vodka, nor another sticky-sweet cordial.
Brenne should be labeled as a truly unique product because Brenne is distilled from barley. It is then aged in used Cognac casks from the same estate that the barley is grown. It is just about as sustainable as you can imagine with ingredients that speak clearly of the soil. After all, this same estate produces Cognac, so there is a certain element of quality inherent to this product. Cognac is a very chic beast that has graced the mouths, throats and stomachs of the wealthy for centuries.
This is a single malt whisky that acts like it is the only whisky in the world that tastes like it does. I've not yet found anything that has neither this Terroir, nor the supple mouth-feel in each meticulous sip of Brenne. It's lush and tinged with the sweetness of roasted hazelnuts toasted in brown butter. I also get the flavors of orange marmalade spooned over crunchy sourdough toast. That toast has been rubbed with freshly churned butter dotted with fleur de sel. The mid range of this whisky is pure and creamy - just like melted sweet butter that drips in rivulets down to your chin. There are certain sweet elements to this whisky, with the deeply inherent sugar that oozes gracefully over time from out of the Cognac casks, infusing the whisky and weaving a dream-like state into each sip.
This is whisky for the long haul.
I could see an experiment - transporting a couple of casks, Madeira-style, lashed to the deck of a freighter, heaving back and forth in the heavy seas, high temperatures and blazing sunshine. Unlocking the secrets of the wood, the Devil's Cut, as it is known, takes time to seep into the distillate. This liquid that seeps into the French oak and meters out little bursts of sugar and exotic spices is... Brenne.
I don't want you to think that this whisky cannot be mixed and that it only needs to be enjoyed straight in a snifter with a few drops of water over the top. That may be only partially true. Brenne is perfectly magnificent in mixed drinks as well as the basis of classical sauces in the kitchen. As a trained chef I'm the first to admit that this taste-based training moves my written words, as flavors drive my passion to write about them. Brenne is the perfect base for a Beurre Blanc plated under a perfectly charred slice of grilled Scottish Salmon or perhaps as the basis for a panna cotta, with Brenne combined with the rich custard and perhaps a bit of maple syrup for sweetness? I also like to pound a chicken breast out, sautéed with shallots, garlic and carrots, and then gently nap the tender poultry at the very end with a flaming shot of, you guessed it, Brenne Whisky.
But I digress. As much as I love to write about food, the real premise of this column is to encourage you to try new liquors. Specifically the whisky named Brenne, mentioned above, and also the magnificent and quite potent Barr Hill Vodka.
Brenne Gentle Fizz (anything but gentle)
Ingredients for two:
• 3 oz. Brenne French Single Malt Whisky
• 1 oz. (for the wash) Caledonia Spirits "Barr Hill" Vodka (made from Raw Honey)
• ¼ oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
• ¼ oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice
• 1 oz. Raw Honey Simple Syrup
• Fresh Lemon Thyme leaf (NO WOOD, please) crushed to release its perfume
• A few dashes of The Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters
• 3 oz. Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water in Lime essence
1. Wash the glasses out with the Barr Hill Vodka (pour into your mouth as not to waste even a precious drop!)
2. Add all the ingredients EXCEPT the Perrier to a Boston Shaker filled ¾ with ice.
3. Hard shake and double strain into coupes, finish with a splash or two of the Perrier Sparkling Water.
4. Add a final dash of the lemon bitters and garnish with a sprig of Lemon Thyme.
Cheers from DrinkUpNY!
Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys.