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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Australian Whisky

New Arrival of the Week: Starward Nova

This week we shine our special Master of Malt spotlight on a new release from Melbourne’s Starward distillery. It’s a single malt whisky aged entirely in Australian wine casks. Founder…

This week we shine our special Master of Malt spotlight on a new release from Melbourne’s Starward distillery. It’s a single malt whisky aged entirely in Australian wine casks. Founder David Vitale was in town to tell us all about it.

We’ve followed all of Starward’s spirits with great interest, not least one cask that was part-matured on a ship from Australia to Southampton. The latest release is called Nova: it’s the big brother of Starward Wine Cask Edition, which couldn’t be called whisky because it was too young. Nova, however, has spent three years maturing in Melbourne, so it has come of age and it can finally be labelled whisky. It’s like a booze bar mitzvah. Mazel tov!

David Vitale

David Vitale enjoying a dram

It was matured in a mixture of wine casks from some of Australia’s greatest wineries including Yalumba, Penfolds and Wynns. The barrels are a mixture of American, French and a little East European oak that previously held mainly Shiraz, Cabernet and Pinot Noir. Vitale emphasised that the spirit is entirely aged in wine casks: “it’s not a finish, the casks are not shaved and toasted, no recharring. This is full maturation with minimal intervention, the wine goes out and whisky comes in.” The spirit which is made entirely from Australian malted barley goes into cask at 55% ABV, Starward describes it as “more like an eau de vie than a heavy Scotch new make spirit.”

The warmth of the Melbourne climate means that it matures much faster than Scotch whisky. But it’s not all plain sailing: “After six months of strawberries and cream, it goes through this adolescent phase of not being that great to be honest”, Vitale said. It’s worth the wait, though, as it comes out the other side as a riot of red fruit. He also pointed out that because these casks had only ever held table wine (as opposed to other spirits or fortified wine), they have more wood tannin left which is perceptible in the feel of the whisky in the mouth (full tasting notes below). 

It’s a delicious sipping whisky as well as a cocktail spirit par excellence. We tried it in an Old Fashioned and a Highball but Vitale likes it best in a Manhattan: “If a whisky matured in red wine barrels can’t make a decent Manhattan then we’ve done something wrong,” he joked.

Starward Nova

On its own, on the rocks or in a cocktail, Starward Nova is an easy-going sort of whisky

Last year, Vitale moved from Melbourne to Seattle to capitalise on the US market (at the moment Starward is only available in America, Britain, Australia and selected travel outlets). “Starward is currently available in 20 American cities. The US is such a huge opportunity for us. It’s our focal point for the time being in terms of growth. Progressive bars and retailers understand that the new world whisky category is growing”, he said.

The next thing in the pipeline is a much-anticipated blended whisky. Called Two Fold, it will be made from 60% wheat and 40% malted barley. The wheat is column-distilled off site; Vitale described it as having a “really flavour forward high ester profile.” The two spirits are matured separately at Starward and then married. It should be available in the UK in October and according to Vitale, “I think in time it  will be the most popular Starward whisky”. We think he might be right.

Starward Nova tasting notes from The Chaps at Master of Malt:

Nose: Positively bursting with red fruit like strawberries with a Port-like mixture of fruit and nuts.

Palate: Honey, cinnamon and more red fruit on the palate, creamy nutty texture, luxurious mouthfeel with a touch of tannin.

Finish: Toffee with walnuts. 

 

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How Australian whisky-makers harnessed the power of nature

In much the same way that Scotch whiskies are shaped by their location, so too is liquid down under – except Australia happens to be a gargantuan 98 times bigger…

In much the same way that Scotch whiskies are shaped by their location, so too is liquid down under – except Australia happens to be a gargantuan 98 times bigger than Scotland. In part two of our series, Australian distillers reveal how the country’s natural resources influence the taste of their whisky

Australia’s booze roots lie in spirits production, as we discovered on the blog last month. As modern day distillers flock to reignite its history, could Aussie whisky become the breakout category of the decade?

It certainly has the resources to do so. Australia is one of the largest malting-grade barley producers in the world, with many varieties unique to the country, says Dave Withers, master distiller at New South Wales distillery Archie Rose.

“We work with a number of New South Wales’ farmers to get hold of unique malts which demonstrate regional terroir,” he adds. “It also allows us to develop a relationship with the land and their custodians, exploring ancient and heirloom varieties”.

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The past, present, and future of Australian whisky

Distillers across Australia are crafting whisky by the barrelful, and it’s liquid unlike any you’ve ever tasted before. In the first of a two part series, the country’s producers share…

Distillers across Australia are crafting whisky by the barrelful, and it’s liquid unlike any you’ve ever tasted before. In the first of a two part series, the country’s producers share insight into the past, present and future of Australian whisky-making…

A moment of appreciation for our mates down under, guardians of some of the world’s most astonishing wines. They brought us Neighbours, the electric drill, and Google Maps. They even invented WiFi. Australia Day, which lands on 26 January each year, may be a national event – but thanks to the country’s great minds, the world has plenty to celebrate too.

Today, Australia is best known for low-abv boozes like wine and beer, but that wasn’t always the case. In Tasmania – which is quickly earning a reputation as the whisky capital of Australia – distilling dates back to the earliest days of European settlement, more than 200 years ago, explains Heather Tillott, production manager at Sullivans Cove Distillery.

“We have evidence that some of the first convicts who landed were stealing grain to make spirits,” she says. “There was a thriving spirits industry here with several licensed distilleries, mostly based on the excellent barley we grow in Tassie. Unfortunately, in 1838 a law was passed banning distillation in Tasmania and we didn’t make a drop of whisky in a commercial capacity here for over 150 years.”

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Whisky Advent 2018 Day #2: Starward New World Malt Whisky

A delightful New World whisky awaits those who are about to open window #2 of their Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar… We hope you all had a wonderful…

A delightful New World whisky awaits those who are about to open window #2 of their Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar

We hope you all had a wonderful first day of Advent, and indeed December, yesterday. Some people will have helped themselves to a square of chocolate, others to a beauty product or toy (Lego, if you’re lucky). But I’m sure most people reading kicked off yesterday with a bang thanks to the delicious surprise (don’t click if you don’t want spoilers – you’ve been warned) waiting in your Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar. Now you’ll get to experience that joy all over again as we open the second window! What tasty treat is waiting behind window #2? Well…

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The stars align: 10 years of Starward whisky

Gone are the days where the word whisk(e)y solely referred to liquid produced in Scotland, Ireland, or America. Today, a fresh wave of whisky-makers across the globe, with their unique…

Gone are the days where the word whisk(e)y solely referred to liquid produced in Scotland, Ireland, or America. Today, a fresh wave of whisky-makers across the globe, with their unique climates and natural resources, are offering malt fans a taste of regionality. David Vitale, founder of Australian whisky brand Starward, delves into the inner-workings of his distillery down-under…

When he founded Starward back in 2007, David Vitale penned the concept “a distinctly Australian whisky” in his notebook, and set out to define what that meant. Ultimately, he wanted a whisky that was “as distinctive as peat is to Islay whisky, in an approachable fashion”.

“We could have gone down the wattle or eucalypt path, but it wouldn’t have tasted all that great,” muses Vitale, who earned his whisky stripes working for Bill Lark at Tasmania’s Lark Distillery. “It had to be something that you could share with friends that wasn’t going to be an acquired taste or something you cross off your bucket list and then move on.

“With hindsight it’s bloody obvious that we should be using wine barrels to do that, but at the time it was a big leap of faith. If we could crack that nut, we’d have a whisky that’s more Australian than Scotch is Scottish.”

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The rise and rise of European whisky

Fancy sampling some delightful whisky newness? It’s time to branch out beyond Scotch and Irish expressions and explore Europe’s growing cohort of distilled deliciousness. As whisky lovers, we’re spoilt for…

Fancy sampling some delightful whisky newness? It’s time to branch out beyond Scotch and Irish expressions and explore Europe’s growing cohort of distilled deliciousness.

As whisky lovers, we’re spoilt for choice. Established distillers continue to hone their goods with an increasing awareness that the industry is changing – a mass of engaged, demanding drinkers thirst for the most compelling spirits, and producers are working harder than ever to keep our attention. New distilleries are springing up left, right and centre, injecting even more of a buzz into proceedings. What a time to be alive.

The traditional Scotch and Irish producers (there’s much deliberation over where the birthplace of whisk(e)y lies – best approached over a dram or two) have long had a stronghold over our drinking habits. But this is changing – and quickly. The upswell of new distilleries is not confined to either country, and right across Europe new and familiar names are creating incredible whiskies – or soon-to-be whiskies – and shaking up expectations in the process.

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WINNER of the Exclusive Overeem Bourbon Cask Release Competition

For the last month we’ve been running a cracking little competition offering the chance for one lucky winner to join a select panel of whisky experts later this month that…

Old Hobart Overeem casks

For the last month we’ve been running a cracking little competition offering the chance for one lucky winner to join a select panel of whisky experts later this month that will decide which bourbon cask will be bottled as the first ever bourbon matured Overeem Tasmanian whisky! The selected whisky will be a UK exclusive, a release of just 50 bottles at 60% abv, with the winner also bagging themselves a bottle – a personalised one at that!

How would this lucky winner be chosen? Well, not by luck at all actually, but by writing the best tasting note for Overeem Sherry Cask 43% single malt whisky (with two runners up winning bottles of this popular expression).

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Tasmanian Whisky – Everything You Need to Know! (Part 2: Old Hobart)

In a quiet residential neighbourhood in Tasmania’s charming capital city, you’ll find Casey Overeem’s house, and next to it, his garage. Got yourself a good garage have you? Bought some…

Old Hobart Overeem distillery

In a quiet residential neighbourhood in Tasmania’s charming capital city, you’ll find Casey Overeem’s house, and next to it, his garage.

Got yourself a good garage have you? Bought some nice workbenches have you? Maybe a pressure washer? Built yourself a little toolrack?

Well this chap’s got a whisky distillery in his garage, and that whisky distillery is none other than Tasmania’s critically acclaimed Old Hobart.

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Tasmanian Whisky – Everything You Need to Know! (Part 1: Sullivans Cove)

We sent our man in Havana on a fact-hunting mission to Tasmania. Facing all manner of perils, from killer ants to the ferocious Tasmanian devil, he went boldly to every…

Sullivan's Cove distillery

We sent our man in Havana on a fact-hunting mission to Tasmania. Facing all manner of perils, from killer ants to the ferocious Tasmanian devil, he went boldly to every distillery on the island. In this series, we’ll detail his findings and give you everything you need to know about Tasmanian whisky, starting things off with Sullivans Cove from the aptly named Tasmania Distillery – recent winner of the World’s Best Single Malt at the 2014 World Whiskies Awards.

Located at the southeast of the island, Sullivans Cove is where the British first established the settlement which would one day become Tasmania’s capital, Hobart. Starting out as a penal colony, one can only imagine what the inhabitants got up to. By 1824 there were sixteen legal distilleries, and a metric slew of illicit stills. In short, it was party-time in Tasmania. I’d even speculate the residents used the word party as a verb. History hasn’t recorded whether or not this is true.

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Exclusive Overeem Bourbon Cask Release Competition

WIN a place on the panel to choose which cask gets bottled as well as receiving a special personalised bottle of the resulting limited edition release! A proper competition this,…

Old Hobart Overeem casks

WIN a place on the panel to choose which cask gets bottled as well as receiving a special personalised bottle of the resulting limited edition release!

A proper competition this, for all you malt fans out there. The marvellous folk at the Old Hobart distillery in Tasmania are wonderful whisky makers, but are sometimes a little indecisive. Alongside his truly excellent Sherry and port cask releases, Head Distiller and distillery owner Casey Overeem has – for the first time – filled a small number of specially re-sized bourbon casks with his wonderful single malt! The trouble is they all taste superb, so he’s having a little trouble to decide which one to release first in the UK… that’s where you come in.

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