Melbourne's Shining Star
Starward Whisky is an Australian brand that encapsulates the past, present, and future of distilling, and best of all, it does this in a way that is only made possible here in Melbourne.
Set among the urban sprawl of factories just outside Melbourne city, it is a surprise entering Starward’s bar and distillery, which from the outside appears to the uninitiated to be a nondescript steel factory. Instead of a dull factory floor, you are enraptured by the vast oak barrels and rustic modern decor, making you think you have arrived at a cellar door rather than a distillery. In the wide open shed you find a chic bar, lined with distilling tanks in the background which creates a fresh and lively atmosphere. Greeted at the door with an Old Fashioned, it is here that your journey begins.
Starward is not just making their mark as a ‘new world whisky distillery’, they are setting the standard.
Compared to their counterparts overseas, where tradition and age are focal points, Starward are creating “something new” says Ms Katrina Gesait - Starwood’s own whisky queen. “Starward is truly Melbourne, born and bred,” and creativity and forward thinking is synonymous with both the brand, and the whisky. Attention has clearly been paid to the development of this new world drinking spot, and this is in no small part due to the sharing of ideas and flavor combinations within the industry.
After finding your seat, Gesait presents Starward’s core range. Starting with the aptly named ‘Nova’ -- their flagship single malt -- Starward takes the time-tested traditional process and turns it on it’s head in a most exciting way. Their trick? They develop and age this unique creation in red wine barrels. There is the familiar whisky flavour and mouthfeel but with a new aroma that is so delicious. According to Gesait, Starward has the largest collection of red wine barrels maturing whisky in the world.
The second of the core range is the ‘Two Fold’. Again, this whisky spends time in red barrels as is the characteristic Starward process. However, this whisky employs both barley and wheat in its brewing, resulting in a caramel mouthfeel that is both thicker and smoother. Sitting in the wet red oak develops a newer and softer array of flavours making the whisky more accessible to consumers. Gesait muses; “If you don’t like whisky it’s a good entry level.”
Gesait’s tour is engaging as it is insightful, with the many secrets of their whisky’s creativity revealed along the way. From custom made distillation tanks, to using the minds of both winemakers and brewers alike, and to the unique final maturation, Starward’s truly is in a class of its own. The cherry on top, and the feature of Starward’s that makes it truly stand out from the other whiskeys of the world, is in their harnessing of Melbourne’s wild weather patterns. Vacillating between Melbourne’s very hot summers, and very cold winters have the effect of tripling the maturation speed of the whisky on the oak. “One year in Melbourne is like three years in Scotland,” says Gesait, making full use of the barrels to this whisky’s unique end.
So what’s next for Starward’s? Founder, creator, developer, whisky lover, and entrepreneur, David Vitale, hopes to take his Australian whisky to the USA and beyond. A testament to the brand’s creativity, they have a whisky that has matured in a ginger beer barrell, as Gesait comments, it’s “the first of its kind, let’s keep doing that”.
Starward offer Masterclasses Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Factory tours, special events and of course tastings of their range Wednesday to Sunday. Check their website for more details,
If you want to taste some Melbourne-born Starward’s whisky, join Coastline Adventures on a Melbourne Liquor & Laneways tour