This Aussie Whiskey Can Rival High-End Scotch

When you think of Australian whisky, what do you think of? In fact, do you even think about Australian whisky? Even though Australians have been doing it for around 150 years, with over 100 distilleries currently in operation, this category really hasn’t caught the eye in the US And, until recently, there weren’t many brands to sample liquor store shelves, aside from the random expensive bottle from Tasmanian Sullivans Cove Distillery. But all that has changed in recent years. One distillery attracts more attention than the others (rightly so): Starward.

Whiskey and red wine barrels: a heavenly pairing

Starward was founded in Melbourne 15 years ago by David Vitale. Its two main expressions were the first to gain traction in the United States: Nova and Two-Fold. What connects them, and all Starward whiskeys, is the fact that they are aged in Australian red wine casks. This could be seen as an obvious synergistic step in the production process given that Australia is known for its wine, especially reds.

Two-Fold is a “double grain whiskey”, which means it is a blend of wheat and barley alcohol, both aged in red wine barrels including Shiraz, Cabernet and pinot noir. Nova, on the other hand, is a simpler single malt that undergoes a similar maturation process. About this aging: These are relatively young whiskeys, around three years old, but according to the distillery, Melbourne’s climate leads to accelerated aging due to fluctuations in temperature and humidity, which promotes interaction between whiskey and wood.

Welcome to the new kid on the block: Starward Vitalis

Recently, Starward upped their game with the brand new version of Vitalis. It is a single malt intended to celebrate the distillery’s 15 years of whiskey making. It also comes with a hefty price tag of $150, which is a bold claim given Australian whiskey’s relative newcomer status. What sets this single malt apart from others is the age (four to 10 years) and the types of barrels the whiskey was aged in (tawny, bourbon, apera and rum).

“Fifteen years ago, when I set out to create a whiskey accessible to everyone, I could only have hoped that it would take Starward on this trajectory,” Vitale said in a press release. “Great whiskeys speak of where they’re made, and to be able to share great tasting Melbourne-made whiskey with the world for over fifteen years… well, that’s something I’ll be forever grateful for.”

Starward Vitalis Tasting Notes

Take a sip of this whiskey, you’ll also feel a bit grateful… or at least delighted to discover a pleasant and quite different whiskey than you’ve encountered before. The combination of cask types resulted in a juicy but slightly tannic spirit with notes of sour grapes, raisins, spice, vanilla and a hint of dark chocolate on the palate.

The color is reminiscent of “sherry cask scotch”, but the flavor is something completely different, and that’s a very good thing. It’s not Scottish, after all; it’s an Australian single malt whiskey with a personality and point of view of its own, and it stands out as such.

What remains to be seen is whether people will shell out $150 for a bottle of single malt that doesn’t have a name like The Macallan, Bowmore or The Dalmore.

Curious whiskey drinkers eager to go beyond the familiar, take note. Starward makes great whiskey, and this premium bottle is the most complex member of its growing family of expressions.


Comments are closed.