Visit to Starward Distillery
What’s constitutes a “good whisky?
There are a myriad of distilling methods and tweaked processes that go into bottling the water of life, the quality of casks, with local contexts and climates adding their very own distinct coleur.
Whisky certainly is a libation that has a near religious following with their own approaches to their bellowed tippled.
Sure, a with everything to do with personal taste, there no single common denominator. One person’s favourite is another one’s disinfectant.
Yet a bottom-line I think most can agree on is that the price tag is not necessarily an indicator and that it needs to have character.
The ability to transport you to a different place. A journey that starts with the pour, continues via the unfolding of the smell and aromas and culminates with it allowing you access to its complexity and balance upon hitting the palate.
Enter Starward Distillery based in Melbourne, Australia.
Founded by David Vitale who initially set out to create a distinctively Australian whisky by using premium Australian wine barrels for the maturation of his liquid emissions in the local “four seasons within the confines of a day”-climate.
A feat David and his team have definitely accomplished with their accolade decorated Wine Cask Single Malt. Informed by the character derived from the maturation in individually selected steamed South Australian Shiraz Wine Casks, which are not charred in a bid to retain the unique wine profile and which resonates in the red ochre colouration, it brings a balance between savory and sweet to the plate that is rarely found.
It hits you upon the first sip with a strong, borderline harsh opening on both the nose and palate, yet immediately softens and shows its complex depth with full flavours comprised of nuances of fresh fruits via honey before it mellows out leaving spicy notes into a smooth finish.
It gets better with each sip and becomes dangerously more-ish.
A new addition to the Starward line-up is their own idiosyncratic take on the (New) Old Fashioned bottled cocktail, created by their in-house bartending and distilling team, showcasing their trademark whisky in a marriage with their self-made bitters, and rounded off with their wattleseed demevara syrup.
Now, how does one define a great bar?
Sure, there are some essential components:
The small things?
Starward Distillery’s bar, sharing an industrial space with its functional distillery, for which dedicated tours are given, in Port Melbourne has got it down pat.
Friendly, and unobtrusive service provided by a consummate host – we were lucky to be guided through the evening by the ever charming and most knowledgeable Bryan and his team, which introduces you to witty and switched-on regulars to encourage conversation.
A well-designed, practical and spaciously laid out bartender stations. Comfortable chairs.
Robust flooring meeting minimalist décor with great atmospheric lighting that gives the bar area a cozy, warm glow.
Music serenading the guests at an appropriate volume by a designated DJ.
Drink-wise, a varied selection of beers on draughts plus a well-curated bottled selection.
A large selection of premium choice liquor brands across all categories along with the odd quirky choice and limited special editions on a rotating roaster to keep things interesting, ensuring that a treasure is to be found with each visit.
And, of course, great selection of expertly made, well-balanced cocktails made using fresh ingredients served in suitable cold, stylish glassware.
If the Starward’s sublime whisky in itself is not an incentive enough to visit, the gem that is Starward Distillery’s atmospheric Bar definitely is, no matter the occasion.
The fact that the middle-aged taxi driver who brought me to Port Melbourne upon a peak inside felt enticed to enter the premises with me to check it out, only to then sit down for a drink and document the interior with his mobile phone speaks books about Starward Distillery Bar’s appeal.
Now, you like Gin you say or you need to drink it to fight scurvy?
The good ole, versatile spirit that mixes so well with both light and summery as well as heavier variants?
Do fret now – Starward Distillery has got you covered with their limited edition gin that is only available at aforementioned distillery.
The bottle and label looks charming – the gin equivalent to a record test pressing, with the emission being categorized as a mere “project” and the colour being more reminiscent of whisky than gin.
Their “Bathtub Gin” is appropriately named as it was made utilizing the cold-compounding method without further distillation, i.e. a bathtub with high-grade neutral grain, infusions of botanicals whose adage give it its distinct colour and a taste that offers the trademark juniper hit, yet, not unlike Starward’s whisky then gives way to a complex mélange of spices and an anise note.
I am usually not too big on gin yet Starward Distllery’s Bathtub variation proved to be the ideal foundation for a Negroni with its cinnamon character and sweet finish.
Photos by @k.a.vv