As Christmas is inching closer (and the Netherlands is in full lockdown), I figured I’d take a closer look at a whisky that I feel is very Christmassy. You might not expect this pick, but the Starward Tawny will probably be my go-to whisky during the upcoming holidays.
Starward is a relatively small distillery in Melbourne, Australia, a city with a climate known for having four seasons in a day. This has a huge impact on their whisky, Starward’s Head Distiller Sam Slaney explained when I talked to him a few months ago. That’s why they’ve yet to release whisky much older than three years, even though they’ve been around for over a decade.
“We get huge temperature changes daily, but there’s also a big difference between winter and summer. We also store our barrels high, up to five or six meters high in tin sheds. So, we get big variations in our warehouses as well. We’re embracing our environment. What we found is that we get good, mature whisky in three to four years. That’s our sweet point. If we go beyond that point, the extraction from the barrels becomes too high.”
I’d say the Starward Tawny absolutely hits the right spot. But first, what is Tawny? It’s one of two fortified wine styles that exist in Australia. One is Apera, which is not unlike sherry. Tawny is very much similar to Port, a fortified wine produced in the Douro Valley in Portugal. The quarter casks used for the Starward Tawny are sourced from Yalumba, a prestigious winery in the heart of the Barossa Valley in Australia. If you’re an avid reader of this blog, you might have heard ofYalumba before.
Only 4,000 bottles of 50 centiliter have been released. Distilled in 2015 and bottled four years later at 48 percent, it retails at a hefty 80/85 euro in Europe. But I would argue the quality makes up for that price.
Starward Tawny (48%, OB, 2019)
Nose: Damp wood and dried red fruits, dates and touches of thyme, as well as mush banana and a whisper of menthol. A whiff of tobacco, fermented grapes and a touch of pralines. A slight farminess as well. Impressive. Taste: A sweet and malty arrival with a pleasant creamy mouthfeel, followed by a spicy, almost fizzy quality. Proper chocolate notes, as well as espresso and roasted peanut skins. Finish: Lingering spices and a gentle sweetness. Long.
Seriously proper whisky from this seriously interesting Australian distillery. Starward is one to watch. Their presence in Europe in relatively small, but I don’t expect that to last long.
If you’re interest in Starward has been piqued, maybe check out this fantastic interview with founder Dave Vitale.