By Richard Thomas
One of the most interesting aspects about the whiskey boom in the United States is how it is not entirely bourbon-centric, or even bourbon and rye centered. New American entries have come along for all manner of whiskeys, and recently that came to include even scotch whisky.
That might seem like a contradiction in terms, an American scotch, until you look at what is going on with SIA, the creation of Carin Luna-Ostaseski. Once a creative director and designer for websites and digital applications, Luna-Ostaseski has followed the same road that so many have trod in America’s larger craft distillery and bottler scene, from the white collar workplace and straight into whiskeyrama.
After several years of running tastings and the like, she decided to try her hand at blending, resulting in SIA. Luna-Ostaseski’s seed money came from a kickstarter campaign, and her goal was to create a contemporary flavor profile. Add to that the “women who whiskey” angle, and SIA occupies a very trendy, modern niche indeed.
Bottled at 86 proof (43% abv), the packaging of SIA reflects its creator and her intent very well, and coming as it does from a designer that should follow as naturally as a river flows to the sea. The tall, slender bottle has a classy, minimal label, and an understated cork stopper crowning the top.
In keeping with crafty blends these days, SIA has a high malt-to-grain ratio, being 40% malt whisky. The 50% Speyside, 40% Highland and 10% Islay proportions therein hit that contemporary note again, because in a regional sense it steers away from the style that many scotch conservatives cling to.
In the glass, the whisky has a solid gold coloring, with a nose that sweetens a butterscotchy vein with vanilla, burnt sugar, and meadow wildflowers. Coming on at the end and underlying that main current is just a hint of wood.
The flavor embraces the herbal, floral notes and the wood most strongly, bringing the latter out of the background, along with a big pinch of ginger and a stripe of sweetness. The silky texture is what keeps the woody and spicy aspects from ganging up, keeping the experience as smooth as its billed to be. At the end, a slight taste of smoke comes on, hinting perhaps at that tenth of Islay.
The finish rolls off that closing smoky note, becoming an aftertaste and leaving a light, peppery glow.
Luna-Ostaseski hit her target well, creating a deliciously enjoyable blend. The blend is light, smooth, and just subtle and sophisticated enough to entertain the experienced while not losing the novice. It’s not only the sort of thing I would use to persuade those who disdain blends on general principle that they should look again, but also the sort of thing I would use to persuade those who aren’t even into scotch in the first place that they ought to try again.
A bottle of SIA should set you back $45.