SIA Scotch Whisky Tasting Notes

SIA in good company

SIA in good company

It’s not often that you see a “new” scotch whisky.

Many scotch whisky distillers were “founded” in 1824, which is to really say they were officially recognized in 1824 when they paid for a legitimate license under the Excise Act of 1823 but SIA got its start more recently after a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for distribution at the end of 2012.

Most people look at Kickstarter as a way for companies to raise cash for projects not yet completed but I’ve noticed more and more companies are going on there to promote and spread awareness about their product. That said, the video on Kickstarter is a nice look into Carin’s mindset in creating SIA and what she hopes to do with it.

SIA is a blended scotch whisky with 40% malt and 60% grain, with a 50/40/10 blend of Speyside, Highlands and Islay. It also weighs in at 43% ABV.

  • Color: Pale gold yellow
  • Nose: A bit of fruit and grass and sea salt spray, a really interesting medley of aromas I’m not used to nosing. There’s definitely a hint of that Islay heather and peat, but not enough that you think it.
  • Palate: There’s definitely a bite to it on the onset with a strong grassiness but it mellows out, there’s vanilla and toffee/caramel and hazelnut flavors. A bare hint of florals followed by familiar spices like cloves and a minor citrus element that blends in with the spices.
  • Finish: Long, warm with a bit of peat smoke and honeycomb. Lingering aftertaste of honey and vanilla.

This blended scotch is fascinating. I don’t do a lot of tasting notes of blends but I wanted to do this one because it forces you to be more deliberate in your exploration. I’ve had Johnnie Walker and Chivas Regal and several other well known, well marketed blends… but I never did tasting notes of them.

I really enjoyed this because I felt like I was exploring a house. When I first took a sniff, I found the fruit and vanilla I know well from Speysides. I thought to myself, I don’t get a sense at all of the 10% Islay that’s supposed to be inside. So I went looking for it… and found it immediately. So I started looking even more and found that sea salt spray I love and most identify with Talisker.

On the palate, it was the same experience and what was novel for me was that the start and finish exhibited different characteristics. In the beginning it was vanilla and toffee but near the end, once I let it linger, I saw the Islay influence creep through.

Retail price of around $49.99 for 750mL puts it on the same price point as Chivas Regal 18yo and Compass Box Asyla and I think SIA more than holds its own in that company.

SIA Founder - Carin Luna-Ostaseski

SIA Founder – Carin Luna-Ostaseski

Posted in Tasting Notes | Tagged | Leave a comment

Bowmore Small Batch Tasting Notes

Bowmore Single BatchI was sent a sample of Bowmore’s newest expression, Bowmore Small Batch, and as a fan of Bowmore (Percy in our Facebook group just picked up a first batch Bowmore – The Devil’s Casks… I can’t wait to hear how that is when he gets around to it!), I was eager to see their latest release.

The Small Batch is a mix of two Bowmores matured in two different bourbon casks, first-fill ex-bourbon and second-fill ex-bourbon casks. The logic behind this is that as you age the new make whisky in barrels, first-fill ex-bourbon barrels will impart a certain type of flavor and second-fill (and beyond) will impart a different set of characteristics. (as you use barrels more than once, they impart less of their character)

So the first fill is said to pass along the typical flavors you associate with a ex-bourbon barrel matured whisky – vanilla, sweetness, and some oak. The second fill passes more fruity flavors and honey. While it makes for a delicious dram, from the a business perspective it makes great sense to be able to use more barrels in a creative way. :)

Is it really an “accessible embodiment of Islay?”
Bowmore’s descriptions claim that it’s the “perfect and accessible embodiment of the Taste of Islay,” and while I don’t know if it’s perfect (a term that’s hard to define), it’s certainly accessible.

In terms of the smoky, peaty, iodine (band-aid) punch most Islays bring, this one is really just a gentle reminder of its origins. There’s a bit of peat smoke on the nose, a little on the finish, but nothing like the Islays you might be familiar with, especially if you love Islays.

If you have a bourbon friend who has heard of Islay but a little timid about peat smoke, this is a good way to gently introduce them to the wonders of Islay scotch. It has all the reminders of bourbon but its feet are still firmly in Scotland.

Tasting Notes

  • Color: Golden yellow
  • Nose: A vanilla-y sweetness with a fair amount of smoke, peat – enough to know it’s an Islay but not so assertive about it.
  • Palate: Citrus and saltiness, vanilla, with slight oak and honey
  • Finish: More characteristic vanilla and again the Islay roots peeks its head out, but not as much as on the nose

It weighs in at 40% ABV and priced at $39.99/750ml, very affordable and financially accessible as well.

Personally, I’m not quite sure if it’s for me. When it comes to food or drink, I like it when something is big and bold and assertive. I like my Islays to smell and taste like a campfire the next morning (ok ok, taste like the campfire smells… I’ve never tasted a campfire!).

I like my food to be really spicy when it’s spicy. I want my seafood to taste like it just came out of the sea. This one seems to be an Islay on training wheels and the bourbon influence isn’t distinct enough to make it really put forward a single assertive foot.

But that’s not what the Single Batch seems to be about. It’s trying to gently introduce someone to Islays, which Bowmore certainly is, and I think it’s trying to introduce themselves to a new market and show that Islays don’t have to be scary and smokey and peaty. On that score it succeeds.

Have you tried it? What do you think of it?

Posted in Tasting Notes | Tagged | Leave a comment

Laphroaig Tasting Event at Binny’s Beverage Depot with Simon Brooking

Simon Brooking, North America Brand Ambassador for Laphroaig, with Gary & friends

Simon Brooking, North America Brand Ambassador for Laphroaig, with Gary & friends

Reader Gary recently went to a Laphroaig tasting being held at Binny’s Beverage Depot, a chain of liquor stores in Illinois. The event cost a mere $10 and was hosted by Simon Brooking, Laphroaig’s North American Whisky Ambassador.

It sounded like a fantastic event and they even had a chance to check out the 2014 Cairdeas – I absolutely fell in love with the 2013 Cairdeas and polished off several bottles (Triple Wood is delicious too!). I think they were made a little smaller because they disappeared fast. :)

Here’s more about the event from Gary himself:

We walked into the tasting room and the first thing that hits you is smoke. A lot of smoke. All the tasting were already poured, 6 per person.

This night we got to taste the Select, 10yo, Quarter cask, Triple wood, 18yo and finished with the Cairdeas from 2014.

Simon greeted us all and then started out with a song. Then he started in with the history of Laphroiag, and how they became a legal distillery in 1815, but they had been distilling illegally for a while. Simon did not say exactly how long the illegal part was going on, but it was for “some time”. Simon then went on to explain how to nose the whisky and how having your mouth open is important, as it allows you to get more aromas and not just the alcohol coming out of the glass.

We started with the Select, which I liked very much. The select is a blend of the 10yo, the Quarter cask,Triple wood, and PX. A good place to start since the select does not have the typical heavy smoke nose or antiseptic tastes that the 10yo has. Still some smoke on the nose, some fruit, smooth, not too much peat at the end. And Simon does a toast with every dram. Some toasts are in Gaelic, some in English and one in Spanish.

Simon then produced a piece of peat, nice big chunk. He explained how the peat was used to dry the barley, and how the peat smoke added that unique flavor to the barley. Simon also explained how they farmed the peat.

They go down 9 inches, put that to the side, then go 18 inches put that to the side, and then use the next 18 inches. Put the first two pieces back, which makes the whole process more sustainable, and you get a more consistant flavor of peat digging so deep.

Simon then proceed to start the peat to smoking and let us all get a good whiff of the smoke. It was also discussed that some people use the peat to smoke fish or meats, and that if you get some of the barley that has been dried it makes an excellent batter for food, get some nice smokey flavor.

We then went to the 10yo which I liked very much. Smoke just pouring out of the glass, taste of a camp fire in the mouth, then floral, antiseptic, then more smoke. Long finish but very enjoyable. With a bit of water the floral, fruity notes really pop out.
After the 10yo we tried the Quarter Cask.Not nearly as smokey as the 10yo. Still nice but the oak really comes into play. Many of the others liked this quite a bit, but not my favorite.

Then more information. Such as it can get very dry during the summer and the water supply for Laphroaig can dry up. So if you are planning a summer trip to see the distillery and see them actually making alcohol you probably should call first. They may be waiting for rain to fill up the lake.

Also the 18yo will not be offered next year. It seems that is already happening since many of the local stores here have no 18. Other than Costco. Laphroaig will be offering a 15yo in 2015. They just don’t have the stocks which makes sense due to the demand for single malts.

Okay so scotch, Triple wood was next on the tasting. Less smoke, alot more mouth feel, oak of course, and nice finish.

Then the 18yo. Where did all the smoke go? Not nearly as much peat in the nose or the palate. Much more of the floral fruity notes, easy to drink, medium finish. My sons like this one quite a bit.

Finished up with the Cairdeas. Wow nice scotch. Aged in oak and then finished for a year in Amontillado hoghead sherry cask. Not your typical Laphroaig. Smoke, sherry, complex for sure, very pleasant, smooth. Great way to finish the evening. A little tip from Simon, if you aren’t sure what year Cairdeas you have look at the ABV. Last year it was 51.3%, this year is 51.4% so next year should be 51.5%.

Laphroaig is 200 next year, (legally) and they plan on having a big celebration during Feis Ila, but are planning on a second celebration since they feel so many people are wanting to come to the distillery and take part in the anniversary.

Other note Laphroaig uses only Makers Mark barrels to age their alcohol. They feel Maker Mark fits the best with their alcohol.
we scored some nice swag from Laphroaig, and heavy duty pen, a stainless steel flask, plus a wonderful spread of bread, meats and cheeses during the tasting. Even have a photo with Simon and a few bottles he signed for us.

Laphroiag really does it up right. If there is a tasting in your area it really is worth checking out!

Sounds like a fun event worth way more than $10!

Posted in Events | Tagged | 5 Comments

Indiana’s 6th Annual Whisky & Fine Spirits Expo presented by Vine & Table

Reader Nancy recently went to the Indy’s 6th Annual Whisky & Fine Spirits Expo, presented by Vine & Table (a wine and spirits store in Indiana), and I asked her if she could share her experience at the event… and she happily obliged!

It sounds like a fantastic event, I’ll let her share what it was like.

Hosted by my favorite liquor (read “scotch”) and gourmet food store in Carmel, IN, it was held at a beautiful reception facility on the north side of Indy called the Montage from 5pm to 9 pm.

Tickets came in 3 varieties, VIP, Regular and Designated Driver. Doors opened to VIP’s and DD’s at 5, and an excellent buffet was available to them until 7. Doors opened to regular attendees at 7. Everyone was given an appropriate armband.

VIP’s and DD’s were given a “goodie bag” containing a booklet with maps, lists, and locations of spirits and a tasting glass etched with “Vine and Table”, a copy of “Whisky Advocate”, a voucher for a gift set of Glenmorangie, and a voucher for $30 off a ride home (if needed) from “Uber”. (DD’s did not get the glass, but had a wide free selection of soft drinks and water available to them.

There were 55 (54 spirits, one with cigars) tables in two rooms and the VIP wristband allowed for the tasting of most of the higher end offerings, and any of the lesser spirits. The emphasis and majority was whisky (of ALL types), but there was Cognac and Armagnac, a few vodkas, tequilas and mescals, grappa (and a couple of grappa/wine blends that I didn’t taste), and maybe some stuff I missed. All 389 selections available could be purchased at a discounted price for later pick-up at the store.

There were also two classes offered (neither of which we attended, as we had Gladys Knight tickets at 8 pm).

One was “Bourbon Straight Up: An Inside Look at America’s Spirit”, with Chuck Cowdery, author and whisky expert.

And “The Art and Science of Whisky Blending: Deconstructing Johnnie Walker Black”, with Kyle McHugh, Master of Whisky for Diageo.

It was a fabulous evening and we noticed car tags in the parking lot from 5 or 6 surrounding states.

I am now on the email list for Vine and Table, so will be happy to post a notice here when I get it information for the 7th annual.

[Here] is a photo of 2 sides of the 3 sided whisky room at Vine and Table.


Posted in Events | Leave a comment

What’s in Munich Airport Duty Free?

My good friend and yours, Gary, has come through again with another wonderful set of photos from yet another duty free store – this time it’s the Munich Airport located to the north east of Munich, Germany. This is the second busiest airport in Germany behind Frankfurt Airport and handled nearly forty million passengers in 2013, according to Wikipedia.

It’s the duty free store in Terminal 2 by H gates 19-28 and it is HUGE with a very extensive selection of Scotch, as you’ll see in a moment..

Pretty much anything you could want, you can find in the Munich Duty Free!

Dalmore, Glenmorangie, Jura, & More

dalmore 1

dalmore 2

Top row: Dalmore 12yo, Valour, 15yo, 18yo, Cigar Malt,Monkey Shoulder, Glen Deveron 16,20,30; Glenmorangie Original, Lasanta, Quinta Ruban, Nectar D’or, 18yo
2nd row: Jura 10yo origin,Superstition,Diurachs own,21yo, Turas mara; Smokey peat, Glengoyne 18yo, distillers gold, Glenrothes, Aberfeldy, Glen Grant 16yo
3rd row: Glenfarclas, Aberlour 12 and 15, Scapa 16yo, Glenlivet 12, Ardmore, Old Pulteney Lighthouse series, Ancnoc, auchtenshan

Glenfiddich, Balvenie


Top row: Glenfiddich 19 yo Age of Discovery, 21 year old grand reserve
2nd row: New travel exclusives, the gold has quite a bit of peat for glenfiddich
3rd row: 18 yo and the 3 pack of minis
4th row: Balvenie 12yo triple cask, 30yo, 25yo, 16yo triple cask

Grouse, Blends & Islays, Oh My!

grouse 1

grouse 2
Top row: Famous Grouse gold reserve, famous grouse, Dewars 12yo, standard dewars,Bushmill 10yo,Black bush Bushmill Honey, Slyrs, Ardbeg ooigie, Ardbeg 10yo,Bunnahabhain
2nd row:Snow Grouse, Black Grouse, Teachers, Tullamore Dew, Octomore,Port Charlotte PC11, Bruchladdich, Bowmore Blackrock Goldreef, white sands
Bottom row: Grants, Jameson, Tullamore Dew,Laphroaig cuan, Laphroig PX and QA

Johnnie Walker & Macallan

johnny walker

macallan and hp
Left side: Macallans 1824 series, whiskey makers edition, select oak
Right side:HP Svein, Einar, harald, sigurd, dragon?

Thanks Gary!

Posted in Duty Free | Leave a comment