The Australian Whisky That'll Make You Fall in Love With Australian Whisky
Australia, as it turns out, is a perfect place to create amazing whisky. Only thing is, nobody figured out maturing whisky in red wine casks until Melbourne native David Vitale first started experimenting in 2007; what would become Starward, the continent’s most illustrious brand.
Vitale & co. use native Australian malted barley and brewer’s yeast to distill the new-make spirit, and then they age it in barrels that until recently have held homegrown Australian wines. For Starward Nova, which you’ll find inside the special Whisky Poet Edition, it’s big and bold with expressions of Shiraz, Cabernet, and Pinot Noir. The barrels get a quick steam-cleaning and/or a light char before the whisky-to-be is poured in, which lets the wine’s influence really shine through in the final product. Unlike other whiskies which are merely finished in ex-wine barrels for a few weeks or months, Starward expressions mature in them from start to finish.
Starward’s whiskies age in the blink of an eye compared to its Scottish single-malt counterparts, which can slumber in oak for decades. Melbourne has what’s known as a “reactive climate.” Another way of putting it is, if you don’t like the weather in Melbourne, just wait ten minutes. Arctic breezes from the south commingle with dry desert winds from the north, creating a climate that can cycle through four seasons a day, rather than a year. The temperature fluctuations push the whisky into and out of the wood at a rate much faster than it happens in Scotland or even Kentucky, imparting the wood’s sugars and tannins much more quickly than in more temperate climes. As a result, Starward Nova only needs three “Melbourne years” to reach full maturity.
One sip of Nova — Starward’s signature expression — and you’ll be amazed that such a young whisky can taste so rich, complex, and fully formed. Bright red berry notes predominate on the nose, along with a soft oaky spice. More berries show up on the palate, along with sumptuous notes of vanilla and caramel. The finish is long and beautifully balanced, with the sweetness slowly fading while the oak lingers.
Starward isn’t just for sipping. It makes a unique and distinctive mixer, too. It works well in just about any whisky-based cocktail, but our favorite is the Coffee Manhattan. It’s simple, quick, and delicious. Add 2 parts of Starward Nova, 1 part sweet vermouth, and a barspoon of coffee liqueur (for you metric fans, that’s 40ml whisky, 20ml vermouth, 5ml liqueur) to an ice-filled mixing glass. Stir and strain into a chilled coupe glass with an orange twist garnish. It’s sweet and rich and absolutely addictive.
Winemakers talk a lot about terroir, but in Starward Nova’s case it applies to whisky as well. Every ingredient, from the barley to the barrel, is sourced from within a day’s drive of the Melbourne distillery. And it’s the unique Melbourne weather that gives Nova a flavor that’s both big and mature. It’s a whisky that can’t be replicated anywhere else, and it’s amassing a following the world over — including northern California, where it won a Gold Medal at the uber-prestigious San Francisco World Spirits Awards in both 2019 and 2020.
To find out more about Starward and discover its other expressions, starward.com is your destination.