Review – Reaching Starward

The New World Distillery, at which Starward is produced, is located in Melbourne, Australia and is proudly producing whisky using as many local elements as possible. The barley is locally grown and the various casks used for maturation are all sourced from Australian vineyards.

The wine casks Starward choose to use are not re-charred as in the case of most of the whisky industry, but the new make goes straight into Shiraz, Pinot and Cabernet Sauvignon barrels.

Most of Starwards new make however is filled into Apera casks (don’t worry if you’ve never heard of it, I had to Google it too) which is an Australian fortified wine, essentially a Sherry but as Sherry is protected by a Geographical Indication as a product of Spain, can’t be called as such.

The official information states that each bottle has a unique code which enables ‘ultimate traceability and exclusivity’. It also reassures us that there are no additives or colourings involved in the process.

So, transparency, details of casks used, focus on terroir and a focus on local barley.

Remind you of anyone? *cough* Bruichladdich? *cough* Waterford?

It is my first Australian whisky and I have heard a lot of positive musings from the whisky blogging community about Starward so it was nice to finally get some time to sit down and take a closer look.

I will be featuring two separate expressions today. Firstly the Starward Wine Cask and then the Starward Solera.


Starward Wine Cask, OB, 41%abv, NAS, press sample (available here)

Theres not much information available regarding this dram, other than the official notes which state it is matured in a mix of Australian table wine barrels (Shiraz, Cab Sauv and Pinot) and they use a ‘portfolio approach to its maturation, using 100 litre and 200litre barels’

The nose has several deep, dark elements. Dried fruits, raisins, oranges and cherries are initially there however are soon followed and overtaken by vanilla pod, a touch of banana and some chocolate toffee. Theres also a sort of ‘dusty’ element that I couldn’t quite pick out fully. There seem to be some pretty solid banana notes all throughout the nose too.

Tha palate is full of toasted oak and spices. There is a big burst of redcurrant and the dram takes a tannic turn. There are notes of Cantuccini biscotti and a tasty, nutty presence.

There are cloves and burnt vanilla pod, along with a faint spiced butter which leaves a drying finish of medium length.

In general it is more intriguing on the nose than on the palate. The finish is pleasant however seems a little simple in comparison to the nose. It has some pleasant vanilla which counterbalances the sharper elements that the wine influence gives.

Worth seeking out as a conversation piece amongst whisky drinking friends.

Starward Solera, OB, 43% abv, NAS, press sample (avaliable here)

The solera method that Starward have used ensures that every Apera barrel they have ever filled is somehow represented in each and every bottle due to a process where barrels of differing sizes are filled and disgorged systematically.

The nose has a mixture of fresh fruit, most notably bananas, alongside green apples, Demerara sugar and spices. There seemed to be a faint herby note and a whiff of fresh pine hanging around.  Only after the dram had opened up for quite some time some of the sweeter notes emerged, some vanilla infused toffee mostly.

The palate is gently tannic and mildly buttery, there are touches of ginger and some woody undertones here. Randomly I am reminded of Brandy as I drink it. Theres a little kick of alcohol here, its only 43% but for a fleeting moment it feels a little higher.

The finish is where the drams presence finally grows and we get the emergence of some drying oak. Bit of a short finish but theres a nice balance of spice and sweet vanilla here. Much like my thoughts on bourbon, the finish is simple with little to pick out, but ultimately rather pleasant.

There is a faint vanilla underpinning this whole dram, but it never feels part of it, almost like I’ve not washed my glass after drinking a bourbon and poured this straight in.


Both of these drams need some serious resting time in the glass before drinking. That little bit of exposure to the air really helps to bring out the full spectrum of the flavours.

I’ve never experienced such a differential before. Much like a cranky toddler they are both significantly more pleasant after some rest.

If I had to choose I reckon the Wine Cask was my favourite, not just in terms of being the more pleasant of the two, it is also the most intriguing.

Some interesting flavours wrapped up in both of these drams but the wine cask just edges it.

I think I like the methodology and the ideology behind the whisky more than I liked the whisky itself, not to say the product is in any way bad. I like to look at it as an experimental dram with much to look forward to coming from the New World Distillery in future.

Find more tasting notes, news and press releases in the Amateur Drammers Archives.

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