Interview with SIA Scotch Whisky Founder, Carin Luna-Ostaseski

A few months ago we received a delightful little package from Carin Luna-Ostaseski, entrepreneur and founder of SIA Scotch Whisky. Inside were two petite sample bottles of her award-winning spirit which we had heard about and were eager to try. Our readers know that we're always on the look-out for female run spirits companies, which still are not as abundant as one would think. SIA is not only led by a woman but also imported by two women.

Luna-Ostaseski originally launched her product with the help of a highly successful Kickstarter campaign and can now boast that SIA is available in over 200 bars, restaurants, liquor stores, and online retailers.

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We love her girl-power success story and interviewed her to learn more. Here's what she has to say!

This Girl Walks Into a Bar: What is your first memory of drinking Scotch whisky.

Carin Luna-Ostaseski: I was first introduced to the wonders of Scotch whisky about 16 years ago when I was living in New York. I think back at myself to those times and laugh. I was the total cliche. Wearing all black thinking I was super cool because I was drinking gin martinis at fancy hotel bars. One day, my friend invited me to a Scotch. I challenged him by saying I don’t drink Scotch, that I tried one once and I didn’t like it. He asked me a bunch of questions about flavours, types of spirits I liked and why and that night he took me on a whisky adventure. I tried four single malts that night, and I was instantly hooked at the varieties and complexities of Scotch Whisky by region, and I came to respect the tradition and heritage of this amazing spirit through visits to Scotland, distillery tours, and basically reading every whisky book and magazine I could get my hands on.

This Girl: In recent years, bourbon has received all the press in the US but globally Scotch is enjoying a much bigger boom. What would you attribute the international interest to, or lack of a strong domestic interest to?

CLO: Honestly I think it's just a (short) matter of time before we see a Scotch Whisky boom. Now that more and more people (women included) are drinking brown spirits through bourbons and ryes, Scotch is the natural progression or next step. As a brand specifically designed for today's modern palate, SIA Scotch Whisky is a little early to the game, but really, what a great place to be!

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This Girl: What led you to a career in this field?

CLO: Prior to launching SIA Scotch Whisky, I was a graphic designer and Creative Director for 17 years. I had zero background in the spirits industry. I didn't grow up in a distilling family, and I barely knew anyone in the spirits industry at all. After 17 years of a very successful and lucrative career working for very large companies such as ABC News and Reuters, and some smaller, innovative tech companies, I had hit a wall. I no longer wanted to spend my days sitting in front of a computer screen, staring into it, designing interfaces so that other people all over the world could star into their screens and little mobile devices. This is not what I wanted to leave as my legacy. What I LOVE about Scotch Whisky is that it's a conversation drink, not a shot, not a party drink. It's a sit-down, slow-down kind of a spirit. One you enjoy slowly and deliberately with a friend. I love the connection this spirit brings - in person, in real-life.

The hard part about being one of the first people in your group of friends who enjoys Scotch Whisky, is that it can be a challenge to introduce your friends to it. Some of the stereotypes about it are that it's "your grandfather's drink" or "too expensive" "too stodgy" etc. So I set out to create a brand of whisky that overcame all of those notions, and succeeded with SIA Scotch Whisky.

SIA has been very well received in the cities where available and also available across the US via online retailers such as http://www.whiskyshopusa.com/sia and http://www.ezras.com/products/sia-blended-scotch-whisky

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This Girl: Although more and more women are trying and buying more brown spirits, there is still a huge discrepancy in the number of female proprietors, master distillers, and spirit company owners. Do you think this will ever change?

CLO: Yes, similar to other industries where we are seeing more and more women in positions of power, this has/is translating tot he spirits world as well. It is happening slowly, I've seen some father's handing down their businesses to their daughters, some husband and wife distiller teams emerging, and more and more women at major distilleries being recognized in the public eye. I was worried that I was entering an "old boy's club" in the whisky world, but the reality has been that all the major doors have been opened to me by women.

This Girl: What is one (or several) or your favorite scotch cocktails?

CLO: I've had quite a few in my day :) As I was developing SIA, I knew that I wanted SIA to be a very cocktail-friendly blend. One that would be complemented by other flavors, without needing to be covered up. On the recipes section of SIA Scotch - http://www.siascotch.com/drinks I've listed over 20 delicious Scotch Whisky cocktails. I made sure to use only ingredients that were easy to find or create. I fond it frustrating to read recipes that were very complicated, took too long, or required a product difficult to find, or make, so I wanted to strip out those complexities and offer simple, delicious and easy to make cocktails. My favorite is what I call a Glasgow Mule - a take on a Moscow Mule, but with SIA Scotch Whisky instead, over ice with ginger beer and a squeeze of lime, delicious summer cocktail. Very easy to make. SIA also makes an excellent Manhattan, Old Fashioned and Paper Plane.

This Girl: Tell us what makes your label stand apart from the others and why your think our readers will fall in love with it (like we have).

CLO: Thank you! I'm quite proud of the blend, created by Douglas Laing. It is so well-balanced, with flavor notes such as vanilla, caramel, citrus and just a hint of smoke. The high malt content makes it very smooth and easy-to-drink, sometimes TOO EASY! And the critics agree, SIA Scotch has only been out in the market for a little over a year and has already won the Double Gold Medal in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, arguably one of the most prestigious award competitions in the industry, as well as a 91 points from Wine Enthusiast Magazine, and a recent 90 point- Outstanding rating from Whisky Advocate Magazine. An amazing start for a new brand of Whisky. Please share with a friend, or as a perfect gift under $50. 

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