Whisky Review – SIA Scotch Whisky


SIA Scotch Whisky

We’ve all had our “Aha!” moment with whisky at some point in our lives. For me it probably happened via a sip of Maker’s Mark or Johnnie Walker Black way back in my misspent youth. For Carin Luna-Ostaseski, the founder of SIA Scotch Whisky, her “Aha!” moment occurred via a sip of Oban 14 (that’s a pretty solid start if you ask me!). While my “Aha!” moment led to a never ending whisky journey that eventually led to me sharing my non-sensical and booze infused ramblings with you on our little corner of the blogosphere, Carin’s “Aha!” moment eventually led her to working with Douglas Laing & Company to develop a blended Scotch whisky that would “appeal to a modern palate” (a gateway whisky perhaps?).

Below are a few words about SIA taken directly from their website:

SIA (pronounced “SEE-a”)  is a new, fresh and exciting Scotch Whisky created specifically to appeal to a modern palate. The striking amber color of clover honey, SIA awakens the nose with citrus and spice and opens the palate with the smoky vanilla crunch of a crème brulée. The finish is long, smooth and refreshing with hints of hazelnut and toffee.

SIA is distilled in Scotland and matured, blended and bottled by third-generation crafters Douglas Laing & Co., Ltd. from a perfectly balanced blend of Speyside, Highlands and Islay malts. SIA is imported by Spirit Imports, Inc.  SIA is 43% Alcohol by Volume/86 Proof.

As many people have inquired, the name SIA means “six” in Scottish Gaelic, which happens to be the founder’s favorite number.

And now for our impressions of this blended Scotch whisky…

Carin Luna-Ostaseski, founder of SIA Scotch Whisky

Carin Luna-Ostaseski, founder of SIA Scotch Whisky

  • ABV: 43%
  • Appearance: Pale golden color.
  • Aroma
    • Limpd: Alcohol, brine and pipe tobacco followed by a little bit of butterscotch.
    • G-LO: A wee bit of alcohol intensity that subsides quickly. Once you work past that, I’m getting lots of fruitiness of the green pear or green apple variety. Also getting vanilla, toasted almonds, grass, and a very light hint of peat way off in the distance.
  • Taste
    • Limpd: A little sweet with spun sugar and some cake batter followed by a mild, spicy heat that continues well into the nice, long finish. The finish has a little bit of sea spray and just the smallest amount of peat.
    • G-LO: Very smooth with just a touch of alcohol burn at the onset. The vanilla and lightly spiced apple/pear are there at the onset. As you approach the middle, a bit of light cinnamon and clove spiciness makes an appearance. At the finish, you get a hint of smokiness that is backed by the lightly spiced fruit. The flavors linger for quite a while with a bit of herbal notes coming through in the aftertaste.

The Verdict

  • Limpd: This was a very nice whisky. At an ABV of 43%, I thought it might be too “soft” but there was so many flavors and so much balance that I didn’t notice the lower ABV. This was easy drinking and made me regret my limited sample size. Well done!
  • G-LO: I love trying a new whisky with zero expectations. Although I had heard of SIA before, I had absolutely no preconceived notions with regards to how I thought it would taste. So did I like it? Yes I did! SIA is very well balanced and very easy drinking. While it may not be the most complex blended whisky that I’ve ever tried, it has a great deal of character, and I definitely recommend giving it a try.

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Many thanks to Carin Luna-Ostaseski of SIA Whisky for sending us these very generous samples!

Beer Review – Anchor Big Leaf Maple


Anchor Big Leaf Maple Ale

Ahhhhh Autumn! Kids are back in school. Shorter days and longer nights, i.e. the end of daylight savings time. The NFL and NHL are back in session. Halloween and Thanksgiving. All of that stuff is great, but since Craft Beer is a muy importante subject on this here blog, our attention is laser focused on the latest and greatest fall beer releases.

Anchor’s Big Leaf Maple Autumnal Red is one such beer, and I can’t begin to tell you how relieved I am to see that the word pumpkin is nowhere to be seen on the label. While I am not completely opposed to a pumpkin beer every now and again, it’s far from my favorite beer style, so if I stumble upon a fall beer that doesn’t say pumpkin on the label, you can rest assured that I’m going to give that beer a try!

Below is a video about the Big Leaf Maple taken directly from the Anchor Brewing website:

Now that you know a bit more about this beer, let’s make like a kid with a huge pile of freshly raked leaves and dive on in to this review…

  • Appearance: Slightly cloudy, ruddy orange-red color. Thick off-white foam that climbs to about an inch and then dissipates really slowly leaving lots of sticky lacing and settling down to a thin layer that covers the top of the beer.
  • Aroma: As expected, there are oodles of sweet notes coming off this beer. I know the label says “maple”, but to me it’s more of a caramel thing, with some orange marmalade coming through too. There’s a hint of hoppy goodness in there too, but it’s pretty darn subtle.
  • Taste: Velvety smooth texture with an almost creamy carbonation. Not as overly sweet as the nose would suggest. The flavors are caramel flavored malt with a mild bitterness playing background to lend some balance. Not much in the way of flavor transitions with this beer. Straight ahead and easy drinking is how I would describe it.
  • ABV: 6%

In case you couldn’t tell from my tasting notes up above, I really enjoyed Anchor’s Big Leaf Maple. It’s not too sweet, nor is it too bitter. It’s also infinitely quaffable. And as an added bonus, the Big Leaf Maple is an Autumn only Craft Beer release that has absolutely nothing to do with the word pumpkin. That makes me happy. Once again, bravo Anchor!

Poppin’ a Few Pils with G-LO…


The other day, G-LO called to say that he had a couple of Pilsners and wanted to get my impressions of them. While I am not necessarily a fan of Pilsners, I am also not one to turn down an opportunity to duck out of the house … er … to do some in-depth research for the blog, so I quickly headed over for our session. G-LO had picked up four pilsners: The Wright Pils from Great Lakes Brewing Company, the Scrimshaw Pilsner from North Coast Brewing, the Prima Pils from Victory Brewing Company, and the Mama’s Yella Pils from Oskar Blues Brewery.

In reviewing the four pilsners, I found them to have the following characteristics…

Pilsner

The Wright Pils

Scrimshaw Pilsner

Prima Pils Mama’s Yella Pils

Appearance

Yellow Straw with minimal foam

A little darker with more foam and lacing

Lighter than the Wright Pils

About the same as the Wright Pils with more foam and lacing

Aroma

Smells like a typical beer; a little malt and then not much else

Kind of funky; like a glass filled with wet wheat bread and almost no sweetness

Not much in the way of dough or sweetness but more hops

Not quite as fragrant as the Prima Pils but a little more than the first two

Taste

Thin and watery with a doughy sweetness and hints of citrus and hops

Totally different than I was expecting with an almost Belgian quality to it

Nice mouthfeel; not as thin as the Wright Pils and more like a Pilsner than the Scrimshaw. A nice blend of malt and hops.

Good mouthfeel; fizzy with a nice balance of flavors

ABV 5.3% 4.7% 5.3%

5.3%

Final thoughts…

  • The Wright Pils was a respectable entrant but left me wanting a little more. It was good but not great; respectable but unremarkable.
  • The Scrimshaw was an entirely different entrant; it is almost a German wheat beer with big hits of citrus and coriander. It was not a Pilsner.
  • The Mama’s Yella Pils is a favorite of mine as it comes in a can which makes it pool club portable and is readily available in Southern NJ (especially in the sample pack with the Old Chub).
  • I saved my impressions of the Prima Pils for last. This is by far the best of the four that I tasted, and it might be the best Pilsner that I have ever tasted.

Many thanks to my man G-LO for taking time out of his busy day to further my education. I will need to return the favor. Perhaps a pumpkin beer-off?

Booze News Flash: Purple Valley Imports Releases Mahon Gin in the USA


Below is a press release from our good friend Raj Sabarwhal of Purple Valley Imports about a delicious Gin that they have just started selling in the US…

Mahon Gin

Click the pic to read about our #WhiskyRetreat with Raj…

Purple Valley Imports Introduces Mahon Gin from Spain.

Arriving in America for the first time Mahon Gin is one of only 3 Geographically Designated Gins in the world. First produced in 1708 to satisfy the British navy that was stationed on the island of Menorca, Mahon Gin is still produced using the original recipe.

In the early part of the 18th Century, the island of Menorca was a British Naval Port as part of the defense against Napoleon. MAHÓN GIN was first introduced in 1708 to satisfy the thirst of the British Navy, after which Gin became a wildly popular island drink, still to this day.

Produced in small batches, using centuries’ old wood fired copper stills and a long held secret botanicals recipe by the owning Pons family, MAHÓN GIN has become an iconic Mediterranean spirit, and a standard for distinctive world class craft Gin.

TASTING NOTES

  • COLOR: Clear with a platinum cast.
  • NOSE: Deeply floral evoking lemongrass, verbena and dusty cedar, redolent of freshly cut flowers.
  • PALATE: Starts off with juniper, then distinctively floral with subtle spice and lemon zest undertones. Shows lovely silkiness and complexity on the mid-palate. FINISH: long lingering and rich, yet balanced with great freshness.
  • COMMENTS: Uniquely distinctive and delicious, as stunning as is the island of Menorca. This artfully composed Gin makes beautiful G&T’s, and shines in craft cocktails. TERRIFIC GIN….

The first shipment of 1200 bottles arrives September 15th and will be available in select markets. Bottled in traditional 1 liter caneta style bottles Mahon Gin has an SRP of $47.99.

About Purple Valley Imports – PVI Global is a small independent business specializing in world class small craft distilled spirits from around the world. Three times awarded Whisky Importer of the Year, PVI Global has distribution in 36 States.

The Limpd Crew Raids the 2014 Philadelphia Vendy Awards!


 

More Photos

A few months ago (on June 14th to be more specific), I had the pleasure of attending the 4th Annual Philadelphia Vendy Awards at Penn Treaty Park. The Vendys are Philadelphia’s effort to reward the culinary prowess of the under-appreciated lunch trucks that serve the needs of the Delaware Valley. While acknowledging their work, the event raises both money and awareness for The Food Trust. We had trucks that offered sliders, tacos, fried cheese curds and desserts. There were savory pies, pork cheeks and mac and cheese. They offered handmade ice cream, cupcakes and crepes. And, of course, we had a choice of beverages (Grown Up Sodas for the kiddies and Sam Adams beer and Angry Orchard cider for the adults).

I was joined on this excursion by my significant other and the urchins. As we approached the park, my oldest kept questioning why I had received an invite to the event. Despite my repeated attempts to explain that I am an esteemed member of the media, she continued to harangue me and then egged on the boys. Anyway, I approached the media tent and we received our wristbands and then had at it. This was a little bit like banding a family of wolverines and then observing their eating habits. I half expected to see a National Geographic film crew following us and then hearing Morgan Freeman narrating the special that captured our afternoon.

The Trucks

We quickly scanned the layout and made our way to the shortest lines. With three hungry urchins, the Bonjour Creperie truck was our first stop. There, we made short work of the Smores and Strawberry crepes. It was all I could do to keep them from eating the plates so we then moved on to the Eating Light tent for some flavored water and gummy vitamins. Next up was the Smokin’ Tacos Truck. A delicious mac & cheese with pork and then a brisket taco (complete with a wedge of lime). At this point, I explained the purpose of the lime and the boys began to add a few drops like old pros. The tacos were fantastic.

Next, we turned our attention to The Cow & the Curd truck but quickly abandoned that effort as the line was at least fifty deep (and would stay that way for the rest of the afternoon). I’m not sure what they were giving away, but by the size of the crowd, I thought it might have been some cold hard cash. I never got the fried cheese curds (judging by the heaping plates and happy faces, this was our loss) and we moved across the park to the Cheese E. Wagon truck. There, we had a pork quesadilla and some ice cream at the Curbside Creamery truck and then we found some chairs to set up camp.

The chairs were strategically surrounded by the stage, Jimmy’s Cupcakes, The Pie Stand, and the Brotherly Grub (and a display from Martin’s potato rolls who gave out stress balls shaped like slices of bread). Our first go round, involved me taking my children by the hand (well, aren’t they shy!) and asking them what they would like from each truck. My better half and I then took turns waiting in the line for the Pie Stand (the only real line of the day for us).

Sandwich Boards

Jimmy’s Cupcakes had an ice cream sandwich, comprised of a salted toffee brownie and vanilla ice cream and two cupcakes: the Lebron James, a vanilla cupcake with key lime glaze and raspberry icing and the James Cameron, a vegan banana cupcake with maple cream and a ganache drizzle. Needless to say, the kids balked at the idea of anything fruit-filled or vegan and found the ice cream sandwich much more to their liking. Brotherly Grub (not even an entrant in the event) offered a pulled pork slider with pickled pink onions and chipotle aioli on a mini Martin’s potato roll bun. The Pie Stand offered savory pies (Shepherd’s Pie, Coq Au Vin and a BBQ Rib). The desserts from Jimmy’s and the pulled pork sliders from the Brotherly Grub were quickly demolished and then I took my turn in the line for The Pie Stand.

This is where I would insert my only complaint (if I am allowed to complain about such a great event). Each truck was slotted a time to bring platters to the judges’ table. I would have expected the judges to have tasted all of the food prior to the event. Instead, the various trucks were given a warning that they were to prepare their best and take it to the judges’ table. This lead to an awkwardly long line at The Pie Stand (and I am sure other vendors as well) as the truck was virtually abandoned while the gourmands took their potential winners to the judges table. I waited over 25 minutes in a line that did not move in front of a truck that was unattended. I’m not sure why I did this but I was so close to the front of the line that I didn’t want to give up my spot. And, I fear my Pavlovian response had kicked in and I was now powerless until the food came.

So, while I waited, my better half ran around checking out other trucks and when I inquired about the urchins (who, I imagined, were waiting patiently near the bandstand), I came to find that all of their feigned shyness had melted away and they were helping themselves at each truck (even the not-quite-six year old was running up to Jimmy’s Cupcakes to get his own ice cream sandwich).

With this stage of the judging over, The Pie Stand (the overall judges’ favorite and winner of the 2014 Vendy Cup) was now fully attended and out came two great samples. The Shepherd’s Pie and the Coq Au Vin. Both were met with a level of appreciation that exceeded the level of anticipation.  My next stop was The Whirly Pig where I got the last sample of the potted pork & duck confit riquettes and a healthy portion of the braised pork cheek. The urchins passed on the pork cheek (their loss as it was quite tasty).

With the samples demolished, we headed back to The Cow & the Curd stand. Regrettably, the line was no shorter than an hour earlier and we were running out of time. A quick stop at the Oink & Moo Philly BBQ for a chipotle chicken taco and BBQ brisket and pulled pork sliders (boy, there was a lot of pork served at the event). Our final stop was a return to the Smokin’ Tacos Truck (my oldest boy, now an aficionado, remarks “what no lime?” when the taco sample is presented). The Food

Then, as the day was coming to a close, we took one last look at The Cow & the Curd truck, handed in our ballots and made our way home.

Vendys Ballot

This year’s winners were:

  • The Vendy Cup Winner: The Pie Stand
  • People’s Choice: The Cow & the Curd
  • Rookie of the Year: Oink & Moo BBQ Philly
  • Best Dessert: Bonjour Creperie

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Many thanks to the folks at Food Shelter PR for providing us with press passes, and I (probably we, now that the urchins have had a taste of the good life) look forward to the 2015 Vendy Awards.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Signs


XOXO Philadelphia

The above photo was taken at Penn Station in New York City on the morning of the 2014 Whisky Jewbilee and is my answer to The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.

Whisky Review – Kilchoman Sherry Matured and PX Finish


Kilchoman Distillery

If you’ve read Limpd’s retelling of our Ardbeg 10 vs. Ardbeg Corryvreckan taste off, then you have some idea about how he felt about peat way back in 2010. That was almost exactly 4 years ago, and I am happy to report that Limpd has finally come around to appreciating a fine peated whisky every so often. While he has not yet become a Peat Freak, he at least doesn’t threaten me with various acts of violence (can you say “double tap”? Limpd can!) whenever I bring some smoky beast of a whisky to The Barthenon for one of our neighborhood research sessions. Interestingly enough, I believe that Limpd’s first “Aha!” moment with the glory of Islay was via a taste of Kilchoman’s Machir Bay that we sampled during a WhiskyCast Virtual Tasting session with Mark Gillespie

A few weeks ago, we received an email from the good people of Impex Beverages announcing the release of two new expressions from Kilchoman. Given Limpd’s newfound appreciation for the smoke, we of course asked for a sample so that we could both give it a try, and as you can see in the above photo, Impex happily obliged our request.

Let’s get on with our reviews of these two new expressions from Islay’s youngest distillery…

Kilchoman Sherry Matured

What they say…

The ex-Sherry matured cask #85/09, bottled at cask strength of 57.9% ABV, has been personally recommended by Tony Rozga, the Distillery production manager. This whisky was distilled in 2009 and spent over 5 years in a first-fill Oloroso Sherry Cask.

What we say…

  • ABV: 57.9%
  • Appearance: Pale bronze color.
  • Aroma
    • Limpd: The ABV comes through on the nose and then, to my surprise, I’m not getting the expected peat notes, but more of a smoked meat aroma. Not barbecue or charcoal; but more of a Hickory Farms note and then a little bit of candied sugar.
    • G-LO: As expected, there’s a good bit of alcohol vapor coming off of this whisky when nosed at full strength. After letting it open up a bit, a sweetened peat aroma comes through. Instead of the usual medicinal notes, I’m getting more of a hickory smoked BBQ scent. Also getting cinnamon, dried fruit, and a touch of vanilla.
  • Taste
    • Limpd: Wow! The ABV might be absent on the nose, but the high octane comes through with a first blast. The alcohol is followed by a good bit of tobacco and then some pepper. I was expecting a little meat (bacon, brisket, etc.) but was presented with more of a tabasco/pepper/menthol vapor kind of a thing. Also, I thought there would be a little more heat in the finish. (Don’t get me wrong, it was hot; but it mellowed to more of a warming heat in the finish.) The finish is long and filled with more spices and menthol flavor.
    • G-LO: Though the medicinal notes didn’t come through in the nose, they definitely show up in the beginning along with some solid pepperiness. That hickory BBQ smoky sweetness comes through as you get to the middle, and the spiciness builds with some hot chile heat coming through. The medicinal notes linger (definite Band-Aids!) as well in the background. The finish brings some vanilla to the party with all of the medicinal, BBQ, and spicy elements coming together for one hell of a finish. The aftertaste is very astringent, with a touch of bitterness as it fades away.

The Verdict

  • Limpd: I thought this was really well balanced with the flavors following one after the other but in a complementary fashion. There was a lot of alcohol in the sample but not so much that it over powered my impressions. The Sherry Matured is worth a try.
  • G-LO: I really like how the Sherry influences the Kilchoman. There was almost a Balcones Brimstone thing going on. This whisky was a great ride! I definitely recommend giving it a try.

Kilchoman PX Finish

What they say…

The PX Finish is a first-fill ex-Bourbon cask #394/09, bottled at cask strength of 59.2% ABV. The Bourbon cask was chosen by the Distillery manager, John Maclellan, and was then transferred into a PX cask. It was bottled once the additional layer of complexity and a balance of what the Kilchoman and ImpEx teams were looking for were achieved.

What we say…

  • ABV: 59.2%
  • Appearance: Golden yellow with a pale copper tint.
  • Aroma
    • Limpd: After the Sherry Matured, the PX Finish seems almost muted in comparison. I’m getting a lot more sweetness (Vanilla, honeysuckle, sugar cane) and then just a hint of peat smoke.
    • G-LO: Once again, you need to let this air out a bit so that the alcohol subsides. While the medicinal notes are more pronounced at the onset, they’re still more subdued than something like Kilchoman’s Machir Bay. Lots of sweetness comes through once you get past the peat. I’m getting musty crushed grapes, brown sugar, cinnamon, and dried fruit.
  • Taste
    • Limpd: Another wow! I was expecting this to be a little softer. Boy was I wrong! The PX Finish is every bit as powerful and flavorful as the Sherry Matured. After the alcohol, the flavors are filled with black pepper, black tar, and dried fruit. The finish is a bit oily with the lingering alcohol vapors providing the heat and a good bit of peat providing the smoke. I’m getting a little subtle sweetness in the finish and a pleasant, lingering, warming heat.
    • G-LO: Much sweeter than the Sherry Matured at the onset, but it’s still solidly backed by that deliciously medicinal peatiness. Hints of brown sugar and spicy cinnamon are upfront. Intensifies at mid-palate, i.e. it gets hotter and sweeter at the same time. Mellows a bit at the finish with all of the sweet, spicy, and smoky bits coming together. The aftertaste is a bit less astringent when compared to the Sherry Matured, and there’s a lingering smoky sweetness.

The Verdict

  • Limpd: To my surprise, I think I liked the Sherry Matured a little better than the PX Finish. While I thoroughly enjoyed the PX Finish, I think there was a little more complexity in the Sherry Matured. Just a few more notes and maybe a little more balanced. To compare the two is almost unfair as while both are from Kilchoman, they couldn’t be more different. I would recommend trying both as they are both certainly worth the effort. However, if it were my money, I think I would buy the Sherry Matured.
  • G-LO: Although the base elements of both Kilchoman expressions are very similar, I would say that the PX Finish is the mellower and easier drinking of these two. I can’t pick a winner though, since I really liked them both. For a wild ride, go with the Sherry Matured. For something mellow and easy going, go with the PX finish. Different whiskies for different moods. That is as it should be. The PX Finish is also definitely worth experiencing.

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Many thanks to the good people at Impex Beverages for sending us these very generous samples!