In Australia Starward barely requires an introduction. Judging by public presence and availability, their Solera and Red-wine Cask are probably the most sold local whiskies on the continent. Starward Whisky has a seemingly unbeatable price-value ratio that goes hand in hand with great quality. The distillery has only been around for 10 years and after spending their first years at Essendon Airport, they recently moved to more accessible facilities in Port Melbourne.
Upon arrival one is greeted by an open, lounge-like venue-space with sofas, tables and the elongated tasting-bar. The open space offers a glimpse towards the production facilities right behind it, as well as providing access to the (massive for Australian circumstances) bonded warehouse. I’m delighted to be accompanied by Gary Hm and other fellow members from the Australian Whisky Appreciation Society (AWAS) for a tour/tasting and bottle-fill. A tiny tasting room located next to the distillation equipment is the kick-off point for our tour of the 3500 square metre facility.
After visiting a number of small Tasmanian distilleries the weeks before, the production setup of Starward feels huge. We walk through the bonded warehouse where approximately 3000-3500 barrels (we didn’t get exact numbers) are stacked up in up to 6 levels. Next we head towards the fermentation tanks and the Peter Bailey stills that divide the publicly accessible venue space from the bonded warehouse. Things are put into perspective by our tour guide who explains that Starward’s annual spirit output is dwarfed by another Australian distillery – namely Bundaberg Rum – who’d produce Starward’s annual output in a single day!
As much as most people here are aware of Starward’s standard bottlings, few know about their ‘New World Project’ limited releases that are only available at the distillery. These are highly sought-after examples of experimental bottlings or single casks that showcase what the distillery is capable of.
Kudos to Starward’s CEO David Vitale and his business-plan for the venture and Kudos to his great team on-site. It is refreshing to see how a medium-sized distillery manages to prove wrong those arguing that increased cost of barrels makes it impossible for Australian distillers to profitably produce quality whisky at competitive prices. Starward seem to be going from strength to strength with a very-well worked out barrel management program and their drams only seem to get better.