One Good Story
Scotch Whisky Gets A Much Needed Touch Of A Woman
“I always love it when a great bartender creates a cocktail that lets the spirit through, and compliments it with other elements rather than covering it up.” -Carin Luna-Ostaseski
New is normally a neglected notion in the spirits game. Drinkers are expecting the same sip every time a bottle is opened; practices producing consistency keep you in business since even though the glass used to make that bottle may be new, the hooch it is holding is at least a few months old, more often than not a few years. Traditions date back to times before your mother was born for some of the biggest spirit makers. New is a gamble; it’s aimed at inexperienced drinkers who don’t know any better. You can’t pronounce your grandfather’s dusty bottle of scotch, that again is probably older than him, but whipped cream vodka and cinnamon whiskey, make it a double!
As a bartender I feel that the constant challenge is this notion of new. Everybody wants that new new, it is a part of making their stool feel like their stool now. They’ll come back to stake their claim time and again for the experience and drinks if it they are both exciting and new each time; something not on the menu, with that new tincture you’ve been experimenting with and have you heard of molecular mixology yet?
Luckily this new idea has turned out some great bottlings of quality and–wait for it–new spirits. Breaking the traditional mold in the realm of scotch whisky is SIA, the tasty culmination of the work of Carin Luna-Ostaseski that came to market in a way that is the very definition of new.
“The goal of SIA is to introduce a younger group of men and women to the beauty of scotch whisky, with a blend specifically tailored for today’s modern palate,” Carin says.“The idea for the blend came to me many years ago when I wanted to introduce Scotch to friends, and kept getting faced with responses like ‘I don’t drink scotch, it’s too strong’ or ‘that’s the dusty bottle on my grandfather’s shelf’ or ‘it burns my nostrils and tastes like gasoline.’”
Years of research and blind tastings helped Carin conjure SIA, a blended scotch whiskey from different houses of Speyside, Highland and Islay malts and grain whiskies. This new blend came to market in a new–so much new–way as well.
When she felt she had come up with a superior blend and had arranged all the details (bottling, licensing, labeling, corking, importing, etc.) she set up a Kickstarter campaign asking for $39,000 to bring in the first load. She raised $45,784 in less than thirty days. Dzamn, think about that. I recently overheard a regular of mine saying he’s to busy trying to make ten bucks to make five hundred. Go Carin, that’s bad ass. Now that the spirit is on the shelves in a lovely delicate looking bottle that can survive being worked with behind a busy bar by the likes of a cretin like me it seems Carin’s efforts have come to fruition.
“The part that has shocked me, is how excited people are about the fact that SIA was crowd-funded via Kickstarter.com, the highest “spirits” raise in its history,” Carin proudly shared with me. “Overall SIA has been well-received. And it’s growing quickly. Already in over 120 bars, restaurants and stores across California and available to order online.”
Once you taste SIA it makes sense. It is a light and straight up bright spirit that begs to be used inventing new cocktails. It won a gold medal at the 2014 San Francisco Worlds Spirit Competition.
It smells of citrus, honeysuckle, spice, lavender, toffee, banana and malty fruit cake.
It tastes of smoky vanilla, creme brulee even with a touch of smoke and a pear drop sweetness, with a creamy almost milky feel.
It finishes long and smooth with hazelnut, marzipan, walnut skins and marshmallow flavors that are both sweet and spicy.
It is amber colored like clover honey with deep gold and yellow highlights, 86 proof, distilled in Scotland and matured blended and bottled by third generation crafters at Douglas Laing and Company in Glasgow.
Carin gracefully poured tastes of SIA to a full house not too long ago down on our favorite little corner of the Mission District. “There was a great crowd that night at Elixir,” Carin reminisced. “It felt great to be able to introduce some of the regulars at Elixir to SIA.”
A book signing of the new–there it is again– title “Whiskey Women” complemented the event. I was unable to get a copy to give ya a review and to be honest I was kind of taken aback, but I’ll say this, dude brought ’em in and I hope to read his work one day.
When preparing a drink for this event I kept coming back to the idea I heard Carin say in one of her interviews that a drink is supposed to be a conversation, go slow; it’s another way of breaking bread dammit. Alright well the foul language I added myself. Being in the family of women who never shy away from conversation–especially at the table–I had to capture that essence of a rapt audience in a glass.
One Good Story
1.5 oz Sia
.5 oz Peach Eu De Vie
.5 oz Lemon Juice
.5 oz Raspberry Gum Syrup
splash of soda water
2 dashes grapefruit bitters
combine spirits, citrus, syrup and bitters, add ice, shake and strain over fresh ice in a double old fashioned. top with soda and garnish with edible flowers or a grapefruit and lemon twist.
* don’t be lazy, use fresh juice.
“A delicious cocktail using SIA that helped to showcase the spirit, and to add a twist to it,” Carin said, making me blush. “I always love it when a great bartender creates a cocktail that lets the spirit through, and compliments it with other elements rather than covering it up.”
The smoothness of SIA and it’s peach flavors brought forward with notes of lemon and a dash of grapefruit before a hint of raspberry and Sia’s smoky character rounds off One Good Story. It’s all day with this drink, we’re talking conversation here and the chat never ends.