Starward Apera and Starward Wine Cask

The new make spirit that becomes Starward whisky is distilled and matured by the New World distillery in Melbourne, Australia.

The New World distillery has two main products, Starward whisky and Starward Wine Cask whisky. Starward whisky is aged in used Apera casks whereas Starward Wine Cask (as the name suggests) is aged in used Australian wine barrels.

Starward has also suggested that Melbourne’s climate makes its whisky mature faster than it would in Scotland – on a tour of the distillery last year, we were told by the distillery’s ambassador that 4 years aging in Melbourne is about the same as 18 years in Scotland (I disagreed with this, by the way). Elsewhere, there have been some interesting observations about Starward whisky’s maturation, which I’ll admit I find just as perplexing as the brand ambassador’s claims whenever I taste Starward whisky. Gram Magazine reads:

“The heat, Slater [Starward’s ambassador] explains, considerably quickens the ageing process. As a result, Starward whisky only needs to stay in the barrel for two years.”

The Northsider also had something to say about the impact of Melbourne’s climate on Starward whisky, and reads:

“Then there’s the climate. Some may curse the four-seasons-in-one-day fickleness of Melbourne weather, but New World Whisky love it. The spirit in the barrels expands and contracts constantly, drawing more flavour from the barrels and shortening the maturation process considerably. Where Scottish whisky takes 10 years to mature, Starward takes 2–3 years.”    

I find some of these observations, and what the ambassador told us on that distillery tour, a little perplexing – aside from the fact that there are plenty of tasty Scotch whiskies on the market that have been aged for less than 10 years (a few of my favourite Scotch malts are just 5 years old), each time I put a Starward whisky to my lips I detect a youthful malt and much of the claimed accelerated maturation effects must have passed me by. To me, Starward tastes young. 

My enjoyment of Starward whisky from different bottles has also been inconsistent. I remember slurping the Starward Wine Cask with delight one day at a drinks festival. Then, a month later, I was underwhelmed by Starward Wine Cask which was poured from a different bottle. 

From one bottle, Starward Wine Cask struck me as a lovely dram, full of dark fruits you would expect in an Australian red – it had plenty of vanilla and drying winy notes with plum and dark cherry. From another bottle, it seemed too tannic and less fruity. Then, when tasting it from another bottle, I was left wondering why I had liked it in the first place. 

As for the Starward (Apera), from one bottle it has tasted young with notes of caramel, orange and orchard fruit, and it has had a slightly buttery finish. Then, on other occasions when tasted from another bottle, I got more tropical fruit/banana and vanilla. It has also been a little one dimensional at times, but more vibrant and interesting when tasted from different bottles.   

At their price, I think both the Staward Wine Cask and Starward (Apera) are reasonably good buys if you want Australian whisky for under $100. You can’t get many Australian whiskies for less than $100, but, in my humble opinion, you get what you pay for.

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