When you think about Australian whisky, what do you think about? Actually, do you even think about Australian whisky? Even though the Aussies have been making it for about 150 years, with more than 100 distilleries currently operating, this category really hasn’t gotten much attention in the U.S. And, until recently, there haven’t been many brands to sample on liquor store shelves, aside from the random expensive bottle from Tasmanian distillery Sullivans Cove. But that’s all been changing over the past few years. One distillery is gaining more attention than the rest (deservedly so): Starward.
Whisky and red wine casks: a match made in heaven
Starward was founded in Melbourne 15 years ago by David Vitale. Its two core expressions were the first to gain traction stateside: Nova and Two-Fold. What ties these, and all the Starward whiskies together, is the fact they’re matured in Australian red wine casks. This could be viewed as an obvious synergistic step in the production process given that Australia is known for its wine, particularly reds.
Two-Fold is a “double grain whisky,” meaning it’s a blend of wheat and barley spirit, both of which are aged in red wine barrels including shiraz, cabernet, and pinot noir. Nova, on the other hand, is a more straight-forward single malt that undergoes a similar maturation process. About that maturation: These are relatively young whiskies at about three years old, but according to the distillery, the climate in Melbourne leads to accelerated aging because of the temperature fluctuations and humidity, which boosts interaction between whisky and wood.
Welcome the new kid on the block: Starward Vitalis
Recently, Starward upped its game with the brand-new Vitalis release. It’s a single malt that’s meant to celebrate the distillery’s 15 years of whisky making. It also comes with an elevated price tag of $150, which is a bold ask considering the relative newcomer status of Aussie whisky. What separates this single malt from the others is the age (four to 10 years old), and the types of barrels the whisky was matured in (tawny, bourbon, apera, and rum).