Starward is one of Australia’s foremost distilleries, established as the New World Whisky Distillery in a Melbourne aircraft hangar in 2007 and quickly garnering attention, positive reviews and international awards for their modern, forward-thinking Starward Australian single malt whisky, which was first released in...
Starward is one of Australia’s foremost distilleries, established as the New World Whisky Distillery in a Melbourne aircraft hangar in 2007 and quickly garnering attention, positive reviews and international awards for their modern, forward-thinking Starward Australian single malt whisky, which was first released in 2013.
Such was the rapidity of New World’s ascent thereafter that the distillery attracted an undisclosed investment from Diageo’s Distil Ventures arm at the end of 2015 and was moved into new expanded premises in Melbourne’s Docklands district the following year, with new equipment, an increased production capacity and a new name: Starward Distillery.
Starward expanded again in 2020, and now boasts a production capacity of 200,000 litres of pure alcohol per annum - a minnow in Scotch whisky terms, but comfortably the largest Australian malt whisky distillery.
As with Indian and Japanese single malt whiskies, Australian single malts have certain challenging climatic differences with Scotch whisky (it’s not cold and raining all year round). Melbourne’s climate is particularly unpredictable, with wide extremes of temperature exacerbating this issue.
These differences mean that the process of evaporation in Starward’s maturing casks of whisky is considerably faster than in Scotland and the whisky therefore matures differently and must be bottled sooner, lest it all disappear - owner David Vitale refers to ‘elemental maturation’ and ageing his whisky in ‘Melbourne years’ to emphasise this point, and has made a virtue of Melbourne’s unique ageing conditions.
The relative dryness of Melbourne’s climate leads to Starward’s spirit increasing in ABV during maturation, as water evaporates faster than alcohol in the barrel. Starward therefore fill their casks at a lower ABV than is standard elsewhere. Starward’s whiskies are generally aged for three ‘Melbourne years’, and even that is a year longer than the Australian laws dictate for a spirit to be called whisky.
Starward also made the bold decision early on to mature their almost all of their spirit full term in red wine casks sourced from nearby wineries - the distillery’s proximity to Victoria’s vineyards means that the casks are extremely fresh when they arrive, and are put to use immediately after a quick steam or re-char.
The distillery has embraced innovation, but with certain traditional features - one of their whiskies is aged in a Solera style arrangement of casks that previously held apera, the Australian sherry-style fortified wine; another, named Two-Fold, is a mix of malted barley and wheat distillates - effectively a single blend, as used to be made by Scottish distilleries like Lochside.
Starward’s craft ethos and Diageo’s deep pockets and distribution muscle have given the distillery an edge in the world whisky market. We can expect to see much more from Starward distillery in the near future.