Starward Whisky’s first home was a disused hangar at Essendon Airport. This new headquarters opened at the end of 2016, with four times as much space. In full flight, it can pump out 1000 litres of spirit a day – that’s 2000 bottles of whisky.
Melbourne’s climate gives Starward whiskies a distinct flavour profile. Whereas Scottish or Irish whiskies can easily take a decade to mature, local whiskies benefit from the whole four-seasons-in-one-day thing. The barrels are constantly expanding and contracting, extracting flavour and evaporating alcohol more quickly.
Starward’s two main offerings are its solera and wine-cask editions.
The process for making its solera whisky involves using different-sized barrels previously used in the production of Australian apera (sherry), then blending these. Smaller barrels provide oaky notes and texture; larger barrels provide dried-fruit and malt characteristics.
Starward Nova is a single malt whisky matured in barrels that used to house Australian reds. This whisky has berry and spice characteristics. It won a double-gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2016 and also an award for the best Australian single malt at the 2016 World Whiskies Awards.
Visitors will be struck by the scale and sophistication of the operation. A 20-tonne silo sits next to the warehouse and is fed with malted barley from Ballarat. It’s brewer’s barley, usually used in beer production, not distiller’s barley. This contributes to Starward whiskies’ rich amber colour – and also ruffles the feathers of traditionalists.
A tour of Starward ($15) allows visitors to taste the product along its journey. And if you’re not a fan of drinking your whisky neat, Starward is not averse to using it in cocktails.