Drinks Digest whisky editor David Fuller was delighted to be invited by The Whisky List to a virtual tasting by one of our favourite whisky companies – Melbourne’s Starward – this week.
Starward was founded by irrepressible David Vitale in 2009 with the aim of creating a distinctly Australian whisky range reflecting his home city of Melbourne. Whisky is the distillery’s exclusive focus and the Starward team have blended a beer-making approach into crafting their spirit, followed by a wine-making approach to maturation, which is done in exclusively Australian red wine barrels. I find this imparts a very distinctive profile – a rich mouth feel and smooth palate.
The evening was hosted by David from The Whisky List, who was joined by Jarrad Huckshold, Head of Blending and Jace Yendall, Head of New Product Development from Starward for a very enjoyable 60-minute tasting.
We tasted five very different but equally delicious whiskies from the Starward range.
First, we sipped Two Fold Double Grain Whisky (ABV 40%). This is a deliberately all-round “approachable” whisky to drink straight or with mixers. Up straight it had bright red fresh fruits from red wine casks with tropical notes. We then tried it with a dash of tonic – which we found to be equally enjoyable and very refreshing.
Nova Single Malt (ABV 41%) is is one of Starward’s best known whiskies. It’s a fruity, double distilled single malt made with Australian barley and craft brewers’ yeast for extra flavour. We enjoyed its smooth texture with stone fruit and chocolate notes. It was awarded Gold last week at the prestigious San Francisco Spirits Competition.
Fortis Single Malt (ABV 50%) is a new core product for Starward. This is a very flavour-forward whisky, having been matured in 100% American oak and with a higher charred ratio. We enjoyed a lovely mouthfeel, with vanilla and coconut and the typical Starward red and tropical fruits. One of the participants described it as being on “flavour steroids” which I think in part is due to its lovely long, strong finish. It was also awarded Gold last week at the prestigious San Francisco Spirits Competition.
Apera Cask Single Malt Whisky (ABV 59.9%) was a chance to try a “work-in-progress” sample of this new expression from Starward. It’s a big, bold and sweeter whisky with loads of banana, vanilla, chocolate and a beautifully long finish. The particular sherry cask used for this whisky came from McWilliams. One of the particpants noted that it had “great flavour punch on the nose and delivers on taste – really smooth lingering finish”. We also tried it with a drop of water, which really opened up the flavours and added in lovely notes of sultanas.
Our final whisky was a Whisky List exclusive – Project X Single malt (ABV 58%). This is a product that was designed to challenge people’s perceptions of what whisky can be. It is matured for six years in charred American oak barrels and then re-distilled. I thought Project X had an almost velvety mouth feel with strong rum and raisin. Mocha-like notes and the distinctive Starward red fruit notes. A very strong finish to the tasting.
Starward has been a firm favourite since I attended a remarkable tasting event a few years ago, aboard Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth to celebrate the launch of its Seafarer whisky.
The distiller filled two identical Australian shiraz oak barrels with whisky and bolted one to the deck of the Queen Elizabeth to sail 95,000 nautical miles around the globe, while the other stayed at its Melbourne base.
I was among a lucky group of drinks media and whisky aficionados who went aboard to sample both whiskies and it was fascinating to taste the distinct differences between them. It sparked a love of the distiller’s focus on innovation that continues following this latest tasting.
Click here for more details on The Whisky List’s Starward range.