REACHING FOR THE STARS | STARWARD WHISKY
By Jo Rittey
“Whisky making is an act of cooperation between the blessings of nature and the wisdom of man.” Wise words from Masataka Taketsuru, the man who founded whisky in Japan and words that perfectly match the magic that unfolds in a vintage airport hangar 20 minutes from Melbourne’s CBD.
For the past five years, David Vitale has been proving that the country in which a whisky is made is totally irrelevant and that great whisky is great whisky. Founder and CEO of Starward wines, Vitale is proud as punch that he and his team are producing a whisky that took out first place for Best Australian Single Malt at the recent World Whisky Awards, a rather prestigious competition based in London. That was the Starward Wine Cask Edition with another expression, the Starward Solera picking up a Gold Medal in the same category. This means this new kid on the block scooped up the top two places. Not bad for a potion made from barley, yeast and water by a new company in a country that has only been legally allowing whisky distilling since 1992.
Brand Ambassador, Paul Slater loves his job and just wants to spread the word about how good Starward really is. Starward whisky, Paul explains, encapsulates all that is forward thinking, innovative, and reaching towards the stars, hence the aspirational name. The New World Whisky Distillery team prides itself on being untraditional and not constrained by the old world methods of making whisky. They embrace all that Australia has to offer to the whisky making process, namely, Australian barley, barrels and climate.
Australian barley has an excellent reputation amongst beer producers so it stands to reason that it will lend itself to the golden nectar. Then there’s the climate. Some may curse the four-seasons-in-one-day fickleness of Melbourne weather, but New World Whisky love it. The spirit in the barrels expands and contracts constantly, drawing more flavour from the barrels and shortening the maturation process considerably. Where Scottish whisky takes 10 years to mature, Starward takes 2–3 years. The only downside is that the angels get more of their share down under than they do in Speyside or Isla. Traditionally 2% of the whisky evaporates over the maturation process and is known as the angels’ share. Here, it is 9–10%. Lucky antipodean angels.
Then there are the barrels. Predominantly South Australian red wine and ex-Apera (Australian sherry), the barrels impart a distinctive flavour and texture to Starward’s two expressions. Called, perhaps unsurprisingly, the Wine Cask and the Apera, both expressions have a vibrant, punchy flavour that lingers on the tongue and continues to hum in your mouth long after the first sip. While the Wine Cask tends to more savoury notes and the Apera has a sweeter finish, both expressions are approachable, enjoyable and easy to drink.
Ninety percent of New World Whisky’s output is their Starward brand with 10% of their energy being devoted to revolving projects that allow the distillers to be creative. Short runs of the fruits of their exploration are available such as a white whisky matured in Pedro Ximinez barrel, or their floral and rich tasting gin.
A tour of the factory with David or Paul is an enlightening and enriching experience. Get some friends together, or go it alone and bask in the glory of their knowledge and in the glory of their beautiful amber spirit.
Open Fri 4–11pm; Sat noon–5pm.
New World Whisky Distillery
181 Larkin Street, Essendon Fields
Jo Rittey is a freelance writer who wants to live in a world where apostrophes are used correctly and smiles are genuine. When she’s not roaming the streets of the northside in search of great food, she likes getting lost in beautiful films and having wildly enthusiastic discussions with her friends.