SIA Blended Scotch Whisky

SIA whisky

I’m always keeping my eyes open for new and interesting whiskies, particularly single malt scotches or blends.  My tastes skew toward darker flavors, but I’m never one to discriminate.

I was interested then, when I stumbled upon SIA, a new small batch blended whisky recently created by a San Francisco-based entrepreneur.  A brief email introduction and inquiry led to a small sample bottle that arrived in my mail box a short time later, as well as a publicity packet including tasting notes and purchasing information.

SIA is a “blend of Speyside, Highland and malt and grain whiskies, specifically created to appeal to today’s modern palate.”

SIA’s creator, Carin Luna-Ostaseski, states in the sample’s accompanying fact sheet: “With SIA, I’m looking to challenge the Scotch stereotype… SIA is approachable, refined and refreshingly modern.  This is the brand for consumers who don’t even know they like Scotch yet.”  She adds, “What I found is so many consumers think of Scotch as heavy, smoky… something their father or grandfather would drink…SIA’s versatility – whether it is enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or mixed in cocktails – has tremendous appeal.”

Supporting the approachability factor, Luna-Ostaseski used the crowdfunding website Kickstarter to fund and introduce SIA to the market.

My own impression of SIA is one of mixed curiosity: a fine blended whisky that begins light and slightly sweet on the tongue, with weak peat notes.  Medium bodied, with faint floral and fruit notes, it finishes long and dry.

As the flavors receded, I sat and thought, scribbling a few overall impressions on my notepad: a good, medium blend – smells more potent than it tastes – flavors competing with each other – good introductory whisky.

What did SIA want to be?  I tried to piece together the information: the multiple flavors; the crowdfunding; the “blind tastings of hundreds of single malts.”  SIA strove to be something for everyone, yes, even for old scotch hands like me.

If you’re new to whisky, you’ll not choke on your first taste (as some do).  And if you’re a seasoned Scotch drinker, there’s plenty to enjoy, especially with a touch of water or single ice cube – it truly reveals the lighter flavors and mellows the spirit.  But no one flavor rises above the rest, not peat, nor smoke, or fruit, or spice.  SIA has plenty of taste, but each cautiously jostles with the rest, like passengers trying to exit a crowded elevator.

To be fair, that’s likely my preferences speaking – as I said, I prefer bold, forceful flavors of smoke and peat, which of course are the descriptors responsible for scaring away introductory or even novice Scotch drinkers.  And one can’t deny SIA’s blend is a finely crafted product wrapped in a sleek design.  But my sample left me wanting a bigger punch from one of SIA’s many pleasant and engaging flavors.

Published in: on October 30, 2014 at 9:07 am  Comments Off on SIA Blended Scotch Whisky  
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Iced Tea Cocktails

A follow-up to Crowdsourcing Cocktails: Iced Tea

iced tea ad 2

Last week I put a question to the crowd: what cocktails could I make with my leftover iced tea?  A few of you replied with excellent suggestions, which I took to my kitchen along with my barware.

Fellow bloggers G-Lo (It’s Just the Booze Dancing) and Susannah (What Tastes Good) both provided recommendations.  However, I didn’t follow their suggestions to the letter, but rather tweaked them slightly based on my personal tastes and what I had on hand.

First, G-Lo recommended the following:

How about one part homemade Limoncello, of which I have plenty, and three parts Sun Tea, shaken and poured over ice in a tall glass and then topped with a splash of San Pellegrino Blood Orange Soda? Garnish it with a wedge of lemon and BOOM! you’re done.

Thankfully, I still had some homemade limoncello (a little less than G-Lo, I believe) and was able to easily find San Pellegrino Aranciata Rossa (Blood Orange) at the neighborhood grocery store.  (As an aside, I prefer Orangina to San Pellegrino, but that’s neither here nor there in this case.)  After mixing things up, I was surprised at how nicely it tasted.  Each ingredient was equally recognizable and the juice didn’t over-sweeten the drink and I thought it would.

I made a slight modification for my second helping, however: instead of shaking the three together, I stirred them in my glass over ice.  Stirring better separated the flavors a bit more and didn’t chill the drink as much, which I more preferred.  More importantly, I was able to use two homemade products – tea and limoncello – killing two birds with one cocktail, as it were.

The second recipe was sent by Susannah, who suggested:

Sweet iced tea (infused with fresh mint if you can) and bourbon. That’s pretty much the best I can do once the temperature gets above 90…

Here I must admit: I cut corners.  As the recipe called for sweet tea, I used my sun tea (not infused with mint) with a half tablespoon or so of sugar, along with the bourbon, in two-to-one proportions (two parts tea, one part bourbon).  This too wasn’t bad and definitely provided a boozier kick than G-Lo’s recipe.  Yet I preferred the former limoncello-based drink to the latter – perhaps it’s my penchant for malt-based whisky (rather than corn-based bourbon), or it could have been my preference for unsweetened tea over sweetened.

Nevertheless, both cocktails used the surplus tea as I had intended and taught me a couple of new cocktails in the process, which was why I had originally asked the question.  I spent a few moments in the kitchen with my cocktail shaker, which these days, is an exceedingly rare occurrence.

Thanks to you both for sharing the information, very much appreciated!

Published in: on August 5, 2013 at 11:01 pm  Comments (3)  
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Crowdsourcing Cocktails: Iced Tea

iced tea ad

Here is where I turn to you, dear readers – my fellow patrons of booze, the great unwashed drinking masses – for your guidance, inspiration, creativity, and advice.  I cannot, for the life of me, find a suitable cocktail recipe that makes good use of brewed iced tea.

I have tried and I have failed.  Thus, I submit a humble request: please enlighten me to your favorite cocktail that uses iced tea as an ingredient.

You see, I enjoy tea – naturally brewed and unsweetened – over ice. It makes a superbly refreshing non-alcoholic beverage, which I do choose from time to time.  So, on a recent sunny afternoon, I placed several tea bags in a half gallon mason jar (the same jars I use to make homemade brandy).  A fresh batch of sun tea was ready only a few hours later.

However, I now find myself with quite a surplus of tea.  Why not put it to good use in a cocktail, I thought.  But this is precisely my problem: I cannot find a recipe that doesn’t sound overwhelmingly sweet and sugary.

So here we are, you and I and a jar of tea.  I patiently await your suggestions, concoctions, or whatever you have enjoyed and wish to pass on.

Of course, thank you for your assistance.  I am forever indebted.  Please accept my sincerest gratitude.

Published in: on July 23, 2013 at 11:21 pm  Comments (6)  
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Brenne Single Malt Whisky


Whisky is a delightful, multifaceted creature.  It comes in many variations, and those that drink it are indeed a breed unto themselves.  During my time writing on this blog – nearly three years now – I’ve had the pleasure to trade comments and wits with several other bloggers who share my hobby of enjoying a fine drink.

One such blogger, Allison Patel, founder of The Whisky Woman and frequent commenter on this site, decided to take her words a step further and create her own single malt whisky. Her efforts were brought to market last fall, in the form of a turquoise-labeled bottle named Brenne.

Through our correspondence, Allison was kind of enough to send me a sample of Brenne Estate Cask.  Allison describes it as a “French single malt whisky finished in Cognac barrels…smooth, approachable with lots of fruit.”  It sounded unique based on the description – whisky aged in cognac barrels – so I was eager to open my small gift.

I consider “fruit forward” to be truth-in-labeling.  After pouring the contents into my glass, I smelled the aroma of cognac, not whisky.  Not one bit.  Yet upon tasting, it was most certainly a whisky, albeit on the sweet end of the spectrum (a bit sweeter than The Glenrothes Select Reserve).

As I savored my ounce, I scribbled down the following words on my yellow notepad:

Sample from barrel #261. Sweet, almost like brandy (influence from casks). Flowery, fruity (peaches), light, buttery.  Ends slightly smoky, floral, touch of heat at finish.

After a few confirming sips, ones I tried to prolong for as long as possible, my glass was empty.  It was a pleasant taste of a lovely new, easy-to-drink whisky, one to be enjoyed by both neophytes and seasoned old lags alike.

At the moment, Brenne is only available in New York City, and while the bottle is reasonably priced, getting it shipped out of state is a touch costly (assuming of course, your state even allows liquor delivery by mail). I attempted to work through a friend and local liquor store owner to procure a bottle, but when that didn’t pan out I bit the bullet and paid the cost.

I’ll soon have my full bottle of the lightly sweet and floral single malt – a perfect dram with which to welcome spring’s arrival.


Picture courtesy of Allison Patel

Published in: on March 15, 2013 at 1:27 pm  Comments Off on Brenne Single Malt Whisky  
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If Booze Could Talk


Imagination is a strange thing.  Quite a few weeks ago now – how December flies by, more quickly each year – I came across a bit at the New Yorker, a Culture Desk podcast titled “Out Loud: If Food Could Talk.”  The snippet of text summarizing the podcast didn’t interest me; rather, it was the title that caught my eye.

Which led to this thought: what might our drinks say about us if they could talk?  And how might each one say it?

My imagination started with two foundational assumptions.  First, that each beverage – whether a bottle of beer, glass of wine, or lowball – is sitting in a comfortable chair across a small table from James Lipton, who interviews said beverage as if appearing on Inside the Actor’s Studio.  Secondly, that each drink speaks with the accent of its origin, and cartoonishly so.  Thus, a glass of French wine would have a thick Parisian accent; a bottle of Shiner Bock a thick Texan accent (beneath a 10 gallon hat); and a glass of scotch, of course, a Scottish accent.  Regardless, picture a favorite drink and it’s not difficult to personify a regional language influence.

With those assumptions in mind, which of our drinks would keep mum and which would shame us over past exploits?  If given the opportunity, what would our liquid friends say?

Beer would immediately air past embarrassments, especially those beers from college.  Picture them all, sitting together, laughing and high-fiving each other in mockery over sophomoric pick-up lines, regaling Lipton with tales of beer goggles and the ladies of last call.  They’d definitely get some laughs at our expense, and rightfully so.  Those were our younger days.

What would liquor bring to light?  If Gin were called forth, he’d likely droll on and on – in a Cockney accent, no doubt – of those first years as a working professional, when you still drank like an undergrad and acted the fool when with colleagues and superiors.  “But he didn’t know,” Tonic would reply in defense. “he was still learning to drink..he hadn’t learned that you, Gin, aren’t a weekday friend, not when there’s more than two of you.”

At this point, Tonic would gracefully exit and Vermouth would fill the empty seat next to Gin, carefully and methodically repairing your character with stories from later years after taming Gin with more mature and sophisticated cocktail choices.  Nevertheless, Vermouth wouldn’t pass the chance to jog Gin’s memory of that one Friday evening where you were found at the bottom of your Martini glass.

Tequila’s brief and noisy appearance, punctuated by much yelling and ruckus, would end abruptly.  He’d throw his chair across the set on the way out.

Perhaps it’s best then that our little friends don’t have voices through which to spill our secrets and shameful moments.  Instead, our regular friends with smart phones and cameras do that for us.  With friends like these, who needs talking barware?  Or for that matter, dignity.

Published in: on December 27, 2012 at 11:47 pm  Comments (1)  
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