Saturday, 19 April 2014

Starward whisky

Score: 80/100
ABV: 43% 
Origin: Australia

Austalian whisky has certainly taken the world by storm in recent years, and one of the newest distilleries in Australia is New World Distillery located in Melbourne, right near   Essendon airport. New World Distillery produces Starward whisky which is now available at Dan Murphy’s for around $80 – a good price for an Australian whisky because most retail for in excess of $100.  This post follows a re-tasting of Starward, having first tasted it over a year ago. 
The idea of maturing whisky in oak barrels is to smooth out the rough edges of the new make spirit and add flavour to it, through what is in effect filtration through oak (because the pores in oak soak up the whisky, treat it and spit in back out). This takes time, and a whisky should draw out all the lovely flavour compounds in oak without becoming dominated by the wood or tasting woody. The whisky should ideally be balanced, allowing all components of the whisky - the distillery character in the distillate, oak flavour compounds, wood, previous contents of the oak etc - to play their part. Sometimes, one component dominates. In the case of Starward, in my opinion the wood dominates. 

In my opinion Starward whisky offers a fruity distillate with lashes of barley, banana lip gloss and fortified wine inspired wood notes that radiate dark chocolate but it smells and tastes woody and dominated by wood and fortified wine, not mature. The wood seems to sit over the other components, holding them back and preventing them from shining more fully. The components also seem poorly integrated. For me, it is unbalanced. Granted, it is quite a unique whisky being aged in Melbourne and in Apera casks (until 2010, Australian sherry). However, for $80, this particular batch of Starward (purchased around Christmas 2013) was a disappointing buy because it is so woody. Batches do change, however, and I am looking forward to tasting the most recent batch of Starward soon to see if the wood dominance has receded to allow the whisky to take on a more balanced - and in my opinion much more palatable - character. 

Malt Mileage has received a number of communications from Starward which aim to explain why the whisky has a woody character etc. This does not change how Starward tastes to me: woody, not mature. I love all kinds of whiskies - peaty, full-flavoured, spicy, fruity, young, old, those with lots of tails or nice clean spirits - so long as they are balanced and not dominated by one component of the whisky. In the case of Staward, it tastes dominated by the wood. 

For more information on whisky production and maturation please see: Malt Mileage Guide to Spirit Making. 

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