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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Islay Scotch Whisky

Most of my scotch-drinking friends don’t get too excited about peat.  They enjoy mellower Highland or Speyside whiskies from distilleries such as The Macallan, The Glenlivet, Glenmorangie, Oban, and Glenfiddich.  Although I too enjoy those whiskies, single malts with peaty, oily, and even medicinal flavors are my favorite.

The scotch produced on Islay (required pronunciation guide: EYE-lah), an island just off Scotland’s southwestern coast, might be described as Scotland’s most exotic.  Certainly its most unique.  The Isle carries “a reputation for the smokiest, most robust and challenging malts, that seems to set the Islay apart from Scotland’s other whisky regions,” writes The New York Times’s Eric Asimov.

“The smokiness comes from the tradition of using peat — bog soil made of decomposed vegetable matter that was harvested to fuel kilns used for drying barley. Assertive peating has long been a trait of famous Islay malts, like Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg, but it is not exclusive to Islay. And just as much a part of the Islay tradition are…names that are impossible to sound out phonetically.”

Many of my favorite scotches – Talisker, which hails from Island, not Islay (another distinction altogether) – tastes heavily of smoke and peat.  As I like to tell my friends, I’ll like it more if it tastes like burning wood or grass clippings.  Thankfully, my penchant for peaty scotches has led several close friends to consider trying Islay scotches, which in turn helped me learn of other distilleries like Bowmore and Caol Ila.  In other words, we have each expanded each other’s curiosity and preferences.

While I have no problem drinking my Laphroaig or Ardbeg year round, these Islay scotch do taste particularly delicious during wintertime.  Eric Asimov agrees: “No, for woolgathering and armchair voyaging, preferably in front of a fire…I prefer them straight, with maybe a spoonful of water and an equal amount of wonder.”

For the rest of December – and January and February, for that matter – keep your Islay scotches close at hand.  Because not only will it keep winter’s nip at bay, that peaty aroma will remind you springtime’s just around the corner.

Published in: on December 11, 2011 at 10:29 pm  Comments (5)  
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Best Wife Ever

The perfect dessert to end a delicious meal of decadent French cuisine.  I also hope the next 25 years will be as amazing as the first five have been.

Published in: on April 7, 2011 at 10:27 pm  Comments (4)  
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Merry Christmas

A variety of Glenmorangie, The Peat Monster, and a dusting of snow.  Truly a Merry Christmas.  To you and yours, the very best season’s greetings and happy holidays.

Published in: on December 25, 2010 at 1:31 pm  Comments Off on Merry Christmas  
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It is extremely difficult to describe the size and scale, the overwhelming experience, the monstronsity that was the Single Malt Scotch and Whisky Extravaganza.  The few hours – where over 100 single malt varieties from no less than 48 brands were generously poured – were nothing short of heaven.  Coupled with dinner and a pair of cigars, this was certainly a special Wednesday evening.  Although difficult to describe, I shall do my best.

The extravaganza is put on by The Single Malt Scotch Whisky Society, a private club with the goal of promoting “the appreciation and discerning consumption of the finest whisky in the world.”  An excellent goal if I have ever heard one.  The Society’s extravaganza tours the U.S. each year, stopping in a dozen cities, including D.C.

While I probably enjoy single malts a bit more than most, I am by no means an expert.  And with such a variety available to taste, I entered the extravaganza determined to spend some quality time with brands I’ve not tried before.  Over the course of the evening I was able to enjoy dram after dram of Aberfeldy, Aberlour, Ardbeg, Auchentoshan, The Balvenie, The Dalmore, Dewar’s, The Glenlivet, Glenmorangie, Isle of Jura, Knappogue Castle, Laphroaig, Oban, The Macallan, and Talisker.  In addition to this multitude of brands, each table presented several expressions of their product, aged 10 to 21 years.  And it was here, tasting the individual bottle expressions presented by a specific brand, where I discovered new favorites such as Aberlour and The Glenrothes.

It was indeed a decadent evening.  And following such copious amounts of scotch, a cigar would best conclude the evening.  Thankfully those too had been supplied by our hosts; a short two block walk later and I was sitting in a soft leather chair, slowly drawing my cigar, enjoying the warmth in my chest.  And considering what bottle to purchase next.

Published in: on November 29, 2010 at 2:26 pm  Comments (1)  
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