Airplanes, hangars, and the hustle of the city life doesn’t always relate to the art of distilling whisky. And in the land where Tasmania has traditionally garnered most of spirit splendidness, Melbourne at first glance would easily slip into the shadows of the underdog, especially if you weren’t familiar with the whisky demographics.
Starward began its journey mid June, 2007 with the hope of creating a very native spirit using locally produced barley, matured in regionally sourced barrels and caressed by the influence of the region’s arbitrary climate. What is rather unique with the Starward Wine Cask expression is it isn’t finished in wine barrels for a handful of months but rather aged for its entire duration. And to maximize the wood’s influence on the spirit, the distillers refrain from re-charring the barrel. And though the fundamentals might still be scotch-centric, the distillers aren’t averse to experiment out of the bounds of tradition. In fact, they continue to innovate with a host of maturation techniques releasing several expressions under the ‘New World Project’ branding.
The distillery now at Port Melbourne is housed in a 3500 square meter warehouse, close to Melbourne CBD, a move after a little over nine years from their first home – an airport hangar at Essendon Fields. The new home sports a pretty neat bar with the intent to accommodate machinery should demand exceed in the future.
ABV : 41%
Eye: Deep Copper (Non Chill filtered, with no added colouring)
Nose: Malted barley and caramel, with layers of sweetness emanating from dark purple grapes, cherries and red apples. Hints of brine, wood and traces of smoke become mildly apparent, only to be replaced by the richness of ‘rum and raisins’ infused with burnt butter and bits of musk melon. Ground coffee beans, crushed cardamom and ginger shavings form the trailing end of the nose.
Taste: Fresh peaches, blood red cherries, overripe raspberries with the warm comfort of caramel candy, peanuts, licorice and soft Turkish delight. Some dryness coming from the wine and oak followed by a pinch of white pepper.
Finish: Medium to long – Cherry flavoured jelly with some nuttiness.
The Starward comes to me as a shy young spirit, starting off rather mundane the moment it swirls around the insides of the mouth, but as you begin to chew through the whisky and let it wander, it begins to ‘show off‘ – illustrating a rich sweetness with layers of flavour it so otherwise cunningly hides. Medium bodied with a host of red candied fruits, the whisky is mellow yet a bit heavy on the palate.
At around $82 AUD, it can be a tad expensive for a young spirit, standing shoulder to shoulder to some 12 year old Scottish and Irish whiskies. But let that not deter you, a very deceivable dram that exuberates maturity for an otherwise amature spirit.
A splendid Aussie pour – not overly complicated, but still complex with sufficient depth that stands very well on its own. Paired in a cocktail or chilled with a few rocks, plain and simple or with a splash of water, this whisky checks all the boxes.