I know there’s this whole vibrant, exciting whisky industry on the other side of the world, yet I barely know anything about Australian whisky. To be honest, there isn’t much available in The Netherlands anyway, so my ignorance is partly the result of a lack of opportunity.
One of the more global brands is Starward, which has just recently found a Dutch importer, Salud Distribution. I primarily know them as distributor for Chichibu and from the duo of single casks they released last year — very expensive but they sold out in an instant nonetheless.
Back to Starward though, which seems to be a pretty transparent distillery. At the very least, they share more information online about their whisky than usual. And when I had a few questions, distillery manager Sam Slaney was more than happy to answer them.
The Starward Nova is a double-distilled single malt made using Australian malted barley. Brewer’s yeast combined with M1 yeast is used for a 72 hour fermentation, while water jackets are attached to allow more control over the distillation process.
The barrels are sourced from local wineries in the nearby Yarra Valley and Barossa Valley. They’re lightly charred or steamed and—according to the Starward website—often still wet with red wine when they are filled. The barrels are filled at a lower strength than usual; 55% compared to the 63.5% that is common in Scotland.
Of this, Slaney says, “we conducted sensory analysis on different fill strengths early in our journey and preferred this strength for our barrels, spirit and maturation environment, giving softer, more balanced whisky than higher fill strengths.”
Finally, the Starward Nova usually ages for a minimum of two years, but when that’s the case, it can’t be called whisky according to EU regulations. Therefore the EU version is at least three years old.
Starward Nova (41%, OB, 2019)
Nose: Sweet red fruits, almost candy-esque at times, with a touch of damp oak and wood spices. There’s also room for lighter orchard fruits, like apple. Finally some bright nectarine as well.
Taste: Quite oily, which is always a plus. It is also pretty spicy, with plenty of cloves and black pepper, as well as some toasted oak. There are some syrupy, fruity notes of redcurrants in the background, as well as crème brûlée.
Finish: Charred oak, spices and a fading sweetness. Short to medium in length.
Very rich at such a low abv, while the influence of the oak and previous content of the cask are well-integrated. Yeah, the Starward Nova is a pleasant surprise that makes me want to explore more from this distillery. Also, Salud Distributions is apparently working on getting some single casks for the Dutch market. I’ll sure be keeping an eye on any developments there.
Photo: The Whisky Exchange