What does a brilliant former ballerina do after years of professional dancing? Start a whiskey company, of course! Such is the path of Allison Parc, an entrepreneur breaking the glass ceiling in the Whisky industry with her farm-to-table, organic whisky brand, Brenne Whisky. When Allison and Team TO THE MARKET dreamt up an influencer outreach campaign to reveal the company's new branding, we were thrilled to collaborate on handpainted, women-made, organic bags. Learn more about this trailblazer and her incredible company below.
WHAT WAS YOUR INSPIRATION BEHIND BRENNE WHISKY?
I was a professional ballerina until the age of 23, which is when I finally let myself enjoy so many of the wonderful foods and drinks previously restricted by my diet – namely wine and whisky. I loved the concept of “terroir,” or sense of place, that was used in winemaking. But whisky had my heart. It was interesting, complex, and full of nuances. I started to wonder if anyone outside of Scotland was making whisky focused on terroir. Was anyone using all indigenous ingredients to effectively capture the taste of a region in a glass of single malt?
This is what ultimately led me to collaborate with a third-generation cognac distiller in Cognac, France and create Brenne, a terroir-driven single malt, which launched in 2012. In addition to being 100% organic and made with all local ingredients, Brenne is the first single malt to be aged exclusively in French Limousin oak and cognac barrels, and the combination of those efforts has created a whisky that is incredibly smooth, fruity, creamy, and truly delicious.
HOW HAS THE CRAFT SPIRITS INDUSTRY CHANGED SINCE YOU STARTED?
The craft spirits industry has evolved in so many ways – most importantly, there has been an emergence of female brand ambassadors, distillers, and founders. I think the perception of whisky being a men’s drink is shifting, and more brands are realizing that women are powerful consumers.
We’re seeing more interest on organic and also “seed-to-spirit” terroir-focused spirits, like Brenne, that consumers nationwide are embracing.
Additionally, I’ve really seen the world whisky segment grow. Japanese whisky is having a huge moment in the industry, and you can find amazing whiskies from so many unexpected countries such as India, Sweden, New Zealand and France!
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE OTHER FEMALE ENTREPRENEURS IN THE MALE-DOMINATED INDUSTRIES?
When first getting my feet off the ground, I faced a lot of challenges with credibility among the men of the whisky industry. My advice would be to not take people’s surprise that you’re a woman in the industry as a negative thing – people just aren’t used to seeing a woman in that space. Every encounter is an opportunity to be a graceful force for change. It’s an honor to be one of the first to do something in a male-dominated industry, and we have a responsibility to pave the way for others to do the same.
WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO COLLABORATE WITH TO THE MARKET AND ALANA PODRECIKS ON THE CANVAS TOTE ART INSTALLATION?
I always have a bottle of Brenne in my bag, so a tote collaboration was a dream of mine. Additionally, Brenne is a 100% organic, seed-to-spirit, female-founded whisky. To The Market’s dedication to creating eco-friendly and sustainable products was what first piqued my interest. Once I learned about TTM’s focus on working with factories that are owned and/or run by women and that many (if not all?) of the bags are made by women made TTM the perfect partner. The studies prove repeatedly that empowering women in less developed nations helps grows communities by bringing economic stability. It’s a win-win.
As for working with the artist Alana Podreciks; I’ve always found it important to tie artistry – particularly movement, flow, and expression - into my product, especially given my ballet past. I wanted to highlight Brenne’s singularity by partnering with a female artist who embodies the spirit of new beginnings, individuality, and community. NYC-based artist Alana hung a total of 120 To The Market totes in her studio and painted them as a full canvas, creating individual unique bags that are part of a greater piece of art. Drinking Brenne provides a similar experience – even though the same whisky is in your glass, your experience given what you taste, your surroundings, company, and reasons for enjoying are unique to you.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED SINCE FOUNDING BRENNE WHISKY?
I’ve learned to stop getting discouraged, as there is always a way to move forward. Now when I feel myself getting overcome with frustration, that's when I take an afternoon off to go stroll through a museum or a park solo. I need to immerse myself in a world outside of whatever I'm focused on (if it's whisky, I go into art/nature vs. a bar!) and feel humbled by the immense creations that others have done before me. It's usually in remembering that there are thousands of avenues to create in life that I start to unlock the creative solutions to solve my current challenges.
FAVORITE QUOTE OR WORDS TO LIVE BY?
"Create not copy. Live boldly and take intelligent risks. Travel through life with a top-level mission to bring joy to as many small moments along the way as you can."
This Women’s History Month, we’re proud to spotlight the talented female artists who helped bring to life our recent capsule collection, which is available now at Kohl’s.