Brenne Single Malt: Not Your Father's Idea of Whisky
by Julia Ebell, Gibson Creative Director
The Gibson picked up a new product recently. It’s Brenne, a French barley whiskey, aged in ex Cognac casks, with a heady white fruit perfume and a lingering, delicate, smoke and ginger finish, all carried along by a finely oily body. When we first tasted it, I knew I had to have something so distinctively French and so undeniably delicious.
Then I read Brenne’s reviews online. I looked at a few whisky review publications, the same professional websites I use to source background information or tasting notes for new products. The reviews I read were often negative, touching on a ‘cloying’ sweetness and a ‘candylike’ finish, an unpleasant ‘clinging.’ For something aged in cognac casks. Cognac, the dessert of the spirit world. Cognac, prized for its sweetness and lingering effect on the tongue. And then I read that the founder is a woman. And things, unfortunately, started to click.
Brenne is no lighter than a Speyside or sweeter than a bourbon but I kept reading about its exceptional lightness and sweetness. That it isn’t ‘your father’s idea of whiskey.’ No, and thank all that’s holy, since fathers are as likely as anyone else to have a proscriptive and limiting idea of whiskey. The reviews as a whole didn’t seem to describe the spirit I was having but they did seem to describe a certain viewpoint as to what is an acceptable whisky and who can acceptably make it. There is no necessarily offensive content, but rather the same failure of tone and awareness running throughout.
Brenne is more than its admittedly glamorous founder, who you can research on your own. And we don’t know that she was ‘grasping’ at a trendy new product versus just interested enough to invest in it and spearhead its production. And it shouldn’t matter that she seems ‘charming and bubbly from the Instagram accounts with that overriding positivity that makes a dour Scotsman want to barf.’
I don’t know anything about Brenne’s female founder, besides the rather spectacular review directly above. But I know she’s made a whiskey that’s a strong and interesting presence- the rare whisky that is subtle enough to have before a meal but is also flavorsome enough to enjoy at the end of a night- and something that I’m proud to have in my bar.