As people begin to feel comfortable with traveling again, many cities around the globe have reopened to tourists with open arms. While some locales are known as historically rich or replete with idyllic beaches, others are revered as happening hotspots for delicious eats and equally mouthwatering drinks. However, while there are multiple cities comprised of visually stunning sights and tasty F&B, one unique place has become the premier foodie destination full of award-winning wine and spirits: Melbourne, Australia.
According to last year’s Time Out City Index, “94 percent of respondents ranked Melbourne highly for its food and drink scene, helping it come in sixth on this list of the world’s best cities for eating and drinking.” And Starward Whisky has tapped in on this epicurean metropolis in a significant way.
Founded by David Vitale in 2007 in Melbourne, Starward has seamlessly combined Old World and new-age techniques to create a beautiful, 100 percent Australian-made whisky. The ingredients used to distill Starward are all within a day’s drive from the Melbourne-based distillery.
“I didn’t want Starward to be an Australian whisky made in the finest American traditions because plenty of those whiskies already exist. Instead, I wanted to turn up as an Australian whisky with its own traditions, provenance, and sense of style and place,” Vitale tells VinePair. “Australia makes pretty decent wine, and it made sense to me that we look to those wine barrels as a source of flavor and distinctiveness.”
The barrels used for the maturation process are built around a broad cross-section of big Australian reds, with the keystone being 100-liter Barossa Shiraz barrels. With minimal intervention, the whisky gets the best flavor profiles and a quick turnaround time between the barrels being disgorged at the winery and arriving at Starward. Moreover, the barrels retain much of their original character, resulting in the whisky’s fruit-forward-meets-spice flavor and velvety mouthfeel.
A ‘Love Letter’ to Melbourne’s Diverse Food Scene
Vitale, a Melbourne native, created Starward with the mindset of crafting a whisky anchored in the city. “Starward is my love letter to my hometown. Melbourne is an amazing place and, like many places post-Second World War, has been influenced by these amazing waves of migration that changed the city’s cuisine and food scene,” Vitale says. “A generation later, we’re seeing Vietnamese cuisine 2.0 and Italian cuisine 2.5 — which is wonderful because it’s not like they’re jettisoning tradition. Instead, they’re just interpreting these styles of cuisine in a modern fashion that captivates people’s imagination and curiosity about these cuisines. And I wondered, why not do the same with whisky?”
Starward’s approach to the distilling and aging process has produced an approachable whisky with the accolades to prove its brilliance. “I wanted to make a whisky that met the audience where they were at on a whisky journey,” Vitale says. “I think we’ve proven now that the idea was a good one. Starward is not only distinctive, but something people gravitate towards, which is great.”
Starward garnered the Most Awarded Distillery of the Year title this year at the world’s largest and most competitive international spirit competition, the San Francisco World Spirits Competition (SFWSC). It is the first-ever Australian distillery to take this top honor, following its incredible win of 12 Double Gold and three Gold medals at the SFWSC.
Enjoy Starward Whisky Your Way
A range of Starward expressions are currently available in the United States, including award winners Two-Fold Double Grain Whisky, Nova Single Malt Whisky, Solera Single Malt Whisky, and limited-release Octave Barrels. Adding to its novelty, Starward was named Official Whisky Partner of The MICHELIN Guide in North America in the fall of 2021, further cementing its ethos of being an appealing and versatile whisky crafted to pair well with food.
The Solera Single Malt Whisky has hints of bananas and tropical characteristics, along with caramel, vanilla, and toffee notes. According to Vitale, Australia has a dessert comprised of banana and toffee called the banoffee pie, which pairs deliciously with the Solera, as do many fan-favorite American desserts like pecan pie or bread pudding. He adds, “Nova is so versatile. It’s one of those amazing drinks you can drink neat or have in a classic cocktail. My go-to cocktail for Nova is the Manhattan. So, if I have a Manhattan with Nova, I’ll probably enjoy some pizza along with it.”
Lastly, Vitale mentions that Two-Fold is his “desert island whisky.” He states, “It works really well as a neat sip by a fire, but also works well in refreshing cocktails. So, if I’m on my desert island, I’m thinking a spritzed drink with coconut and a poke bowl.”
The potential for expansion in sharing the inimitable Starward keeps Vitale and his team motivated to continue their successful trajectory. “It is such an amazing product, and the reason why I love it so much is that it does deliver on the promise that we set ourselves when we started, which is a distinctive whisky that’s extremely well crafted, and shamelessly borrows from all the bits of whisky production around the world — whether it be bourbon, Scotch, or Irish whisky — but equally couldn’t be made in any other place apart from Melbourne,” Vitale says.
“So, just sharing that modern approach to drinking whisky on your own terms, whether it be neat, mixed, or spritzed, is something that really excites me. I have a really strong view that every respectable bar at home — or obviously in restaurants and cocktail bars around the world — needs a bottle of Starward on it, and we won’t rest until that ambition is fulfilled.”
Below, we’ve shared the recipe of one of our favorite cocktails crafted with Starward Two-Fold Double Grain Whisky. Enjoy!
Two-Fold Apple Spritz
- Build all ingredients over ice in a highball glass.
- Garnish with fresh apple slices.
This article is sponsored by Starward Whisky.