Whisky Review #69: Starward Wine Cask

This week’s review takes us back to Australia (and more specifically, Melbourne), where we encounter a whisky which has been making waves in the local as well as international scene.

Starward whisky is the product of the New World Whisky distillery, which is located in the Essendon Fields area of Melbourne and is very close to Essendon airport. In fact, the distillery is actually located within an old aircraft hangar which used to the jets which are used by Qantas.

New World Whisky distillery’s journey began in 2004, when owner David Vitale decided that he needed a new challenge after spending the previous 8 years developing his e-learning business in Melbourne.

His fiancé and him decided to pack up and move over to Tasmania in order to start their own organic brewery. That was the intended plan anyway, but everything changed when David had a chance meeting with an individual at a micro-distillery who opened his eyes to the idea of distilling whisky instead.

This chance encounter then led to a handshake agreement for David and his fiancé to return to Melbourne in order to start a whisky distillery with a bunch of local investors and this took place sometime in 2004.

The early years were difficult for David and his distillery, but through sheer determination and a sprinkling of good fortune, New World Whisky distillery released its first premium single malt offering: Starward.

Inside one of the distillery “warehouses” (Picture credit: http://www.spoonfulsofwanderlust.com)

Over the past 12 years, David and his team have sought to push the boundaries of whisky production and they have split the brand into two aspects: Starward (which is their premium single malt offering and consists of the Solera and Wine Cask expressions), and New World Whisky (which is their experimental arm and looks to create unusual and often delicious offerings).

By closely monitoring the influence of time, place and the natural elements, they have been able to craft some stunning offerings which have captured the imagination of local and international drinkers.

The malted barley is a bespoke creation which has been made to suit the distillery’s needs and the cask selection (which largely consists of Australian fortified wine barrels which have been re-coopered, re-toasted and re-sized in order to allow for maximum flavour extraction.

Due to the erratic nature of Melbourne’s weather, the team at New World Whisky has had to put in a fair bit of time into the research and development of their offerings in order to provide something unique (and more importantly, drinkable).With the climate allowing for a faster maturation time, this allows the whisky to mellow quickly without compromising on the quality.

Interesting fact: Due to Melbourne’s weather being extremely erratic (4 seasons in a day!), the evaporative maturation is considerably higher (12-16% per annum) when compared to their Tasmanian distillery counterparts (1-4% per annum). As such, the whiskies mature faster and tend to be bottled at a younger age statement (or an a NAS offering).

While the distillery is relatively small in terms of production capacity, it has picked up some impressive reviews and awards along the way. In fact, the Starward Wine Cask expression picked up the “Best Australian Single Malt” award at the prestigious World Whiskies Awards as well as the “Best Craft Distiller” and “Double Gold” awards at the San Francisco Global Spirits Competition.

Interesting fact: The distillery owners have acquired a warehouse in the Port Melbourne area and are currently transforming it into the site of their new distillery premises. It is expected that all of the New World Projects and Starward operations will move to the new site by the end of October. In fact, the stills were switched off for the final time at the present site earlier this week!

As such, this week’s review focuses on the award-winning Starward Wine Cask expression, which has been distilled and matured in a variety of wine casks sourced from one of the top producers in the Barossa Valley before being bottled at a standard abv of 41% after approximately 4 years of aging. I was lucky enough to have gotten a bottle from a mate, who assisted me in purchasing it from the distillery itself. Thanks Tim!

So, here we go!

Starward Wine Cask

Starward Wine Cask (41% abv)

Colour: Polished rosewood

Nose: Initial entry presents raspberry jam, mild oak, cinnamon and a certain wine-like note which is more reminiscent of light sherry than the typical Shiraz which constitues a large part of this expression.

Palma violets, parma ham, a certain grassiness and hints of black pepper intermingle with the sweet and spicy elements and the result is a nosing experience which is far more complex than one would expect from a whisky that is approximately 4 years old. (21/25)

Palate: Initial entry presents a more wine-like note coupled with some of the light sherry notes from the nose, which is actually more pronounced on the palate but not to the point of being cloying.

There is also a certain bourbon-esque element on the palate which wasn’t as apparent on the nose and this brings some vanilla to the fore. The sweetness slowly fades and spices such as black pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg emerge and provide a nice warmth. The savoury parma ham notes linger in the background, providin a slight salinity. (22/25)

Finish: A relatively medium length finish which displays more of the parma ham notes detected at the fringes of the palate as well as some espresso notes. There is also a nice floral note which is reminiscent of lavender. (19/25)

Balance: A rather well-balanced and enjoyable dram that displays a fair bit of complexity which is in direct contrast to its relatively young age. The mouthfeel becomes increasingly dry towards the end, but that is to be expected considering the warming wood spices which take over the proceedings towards the end. (19/25)

Rating: 81/100

Having tried the Staward Solera after purchasing this expression, I am of the opinion that the richness of the Solera expression stands out a fair bit more than this one. That being said, the Wine Cask is an exceptional offering which is available for a very reasonable price of AU$82 at liquor stores such as Dan Murphys. When you consider that most of the other Australian whiskies retail for at least AU$160 (for a 500ml bottle), that is a bloody bargain!

I would definitely recommend this dram to anyone who is looking to get an introduction to Australian whiskies and this would provide a great nosing and tasting experience for an amazingly afforable price.

Until the next review, have a great week.






More reviews: https://www.thesinglecask.sg/blogs/news


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