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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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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New Whiskies

I’m always on the lookout for new inspiration when it comes to trying new scotches and single malts.  Unfortunately, I’ll miss this year’s Washington DC stop of the Single Malt Scotch Whisky Extravaganza.

Thankfully a friend who also experienced dangerous Middle East drinking emailed me a book recommendation several weeks ago: Ian Buxton’s 101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die.  After a few nights of thumbing through it casually, I decided to replenish my dwindling stock.  I hadn’t purchased any new bottles recently, so I was long overdue; I decided two or three bottles would suffice.

It took a few days to find a few minutes to casually browse the liquor store without a toddler or baby in tow, and I finally found that time late on a Sunday afternoon.  And with my trusty notes in hand, I selected the following:

– Highland Park 12 year old

– The Glenrothes Select Reserve

– Bunnahabhain 12 year old

Also on my list was a bottle of Glengoyne 21 year old, which Buxton describes as “glorious old gold…[finishing] quite extended, smooth and warming, with gentle spice hints as it fades.”  My neighborhood ABC Store didn’t carry it, which meant I had to trek into DC to pay my old liquor store in Chinatown a visit.

I’ve enjoyed my new purchases on many recent evenings, in front of the fireplace after the children are put to bed.  A perfect drink for autumn, when evening comes too early and Frankenstorm Sandy comes roaring through the Piedmont.

Published in: on November 28, 2012 at 12:50 pm  Comments (2)  
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A Drink With… Ron Swanson


Ron doesn’t hide his love of a dram.  Especially when it’s served next to a thick porterhouse or ribeye from any number of his favorite restaurants.  The drink is secondary, to be sure, but that doesn’t make it less important.

He’s not a picky man, not with his drink.  He’ll remember a good scotch – like that Lagavulin 16 year old he had with his medium rare ribeye back on February 14, 1996 – memorialized for all time in his Mulligan’s Steakhouse book.  But Mulligan’s, that’s more about the meal than the beverage.

When he’s drinking (and especially when eating), don’t interrupt him.  He’s a solitary man who can’t be trifled with minor distractions like conversation.   Or strippers.  So perhaps it’d be more accurate to say that you don’t have a drink with Ron Swanson, you have a drink near him.


And for an extra culinary treat and your viewing pleasure, see this video for all things related to Ron and food.  Well, not all kinds of food, and certainly not salads.  Mostly just free breakfast buffets, bacon-wrapped shrimp, Meat Tornadoes, a “Swanson,” and all your bacon and eggs.  That’s right, bacon’s listed twice.

Published in: on January 19, 2012 at 2:20 pm  Comments (1)  
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Baghdad Country Club

Well, not a country club in the traditional sense – no, more of a small, dusty convenience store stocked with a limited selection of liquor, beer, wine, and other odds and ends located on a small side street in a run-down residential section of Baghdad’s International Zone. 

The IZ, commonly referred to as the “Green Zone” by the press and media types, was – when I was there many years ago – still a heavily fortified city-within-a city, filled mostly with Western diplomats, coalition military personnel, and Iraqi politicians who were wealthy enough to live behind the blastwalls and U.S. Army checkpoints.

For those of us who lived there, the IZ wasn’t much to look at.  It did provide safety from the indiscriminate car bombs that were so common in those days, but not the indirect attacks (mortars, rockets, small arms fire) launched from nearby neighborhoods.  Really, there were only a few places that provided some modicum of happiness: the Embassy’s coffee shop (located in Saddam’s Presidential Palace); the Blue Star restaurant; and the Baghdad Country Club.  For me, the Country Club was tricky to visit.  I was a non-military person living on a military base; thus, the military’s rules applied to us, including General Order #1 (no consumption of alcohol).  But working for a manager who understands discretion does have its benefits, so whenever possible, a short detour was made to the Country Club.

I was lucky enough to have visited the Baghdad Country Club.  For those who weren’t, Joshuah Bearman recently wrote a story entitled Baghdad Country Club, published electronically by The Atavist and available for purchase/download.  The Atlantic excerpted a piece of Bearman’s story, which after reading, put a nostalgic smile on my face and stirred a few old memories of warm bottles of Dewar’s blended Scotch whisky.  To this day, I still keep a bottle of Dewar’s on my bar, mostly for its sentimental value.

In addition to the excerpted Atlantic piece, Atavist Publishing posted a superb video companion to Bearman’s story, a truly imaginative piece of art.  Although it doesn’t replicate the actual experience, it provides a little colorful background to the Country Club’s origins.


For a more about my drinking experience while serving in Iraq, see my three part series Hazardous Drinking in the Middle East, which originally appeared in September 2010.

Published in: on December 21, 2011 at 12:48 am  Comments Off on Baghdad Country Club  
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