This month we go back to our core values as a whisky club! A ridiculously great single malt whisky, a whisky that has won gold medals nearly every year since its first release, a whisky from one of Australia’s powerhouse distilleries (and Australian success stories) – The Starward Solera.
For September, we are proud to offer the core expression from the one and only Starward. Not exclusive, not made for us…just one of Australia’s most delectable whiskies aged in ex-Apera casks, that built the Starward brand into what it is known for worldwide and it all started in a small shed in Melbourne. The awards for the Starward Solera speak for themselves:
- Double Gold SFWSC 2021
- Gold World Whisky Masters 2021
- Gold Medal Winner at World Whiskies Awards 2016, 2017, 2019
The ‘Solera’ for us is the representation of the new world of great Australian whisky and the way the Solera method works means that every bottle of the Starward Solera contains some of the very original spirit produced at the distillery.
Starward has gained somewhat of a cult status in Australia with limited releases coming thick and fast it seems. These (fantastic) limited expressions do tend to somewhat overshadow their core products in ‘whisky circles’ here, which is a shame as Starward’s core products are sensational.
As per its name, this month’s feature whisky is aged using a modern take on the solera method of aging. The ‘Methode Solera’ refers to a practice where spirits are aged in consecutive barrels. The very bottom row of these barrels (known as the Solera row) are the casks the aged spirit is drawn from for bottling.
Traditionally, these are the first casks filled and aged for an amount of time (depends on the distillery, the climate and where it’s being aged). During this aging period, another row (called a ‘scale’) is added above the first (bottom) row – and new make begins aging in these. After some time, the angels share is replaced in the bottom row, with some of the contents from the second row. The second row is then topped with new make, and another row (‘scale’) added above and filled entirely with new make spirit begins the aging process. This is replicated until several scales are full of aging spirit. When the bottom scale is ready to ‘harvest’, some (around half) of the spirit is drawn and bottled. These are then topped up with spirit from the scale above, the second row are topped form the scale above them and so on, until the top scale – which are topped up with new make. And so, when fully established, you have several (up to 8 or ten) layers of spirit, all slightly differently aged, and all containing a blend of different vintages.
So, I guess you could say what you end up with, is a continuous aging process rather than a ‘batch at a time’ coming from individual barrels of singular vintage spirit.
Starward were inspired by a trip to Glenfiddich in Speyside, who use a modern interpretation of the Solera technique for their delicious 15-year-old release. Rather than a bunch of scales, Starward uses a large vat to combine new empties of Apera barrels into. They never fully empty the Solera vat ensuring that it holds a portion of the previous contents, marrying its ever-aging base stock with younger whisky.
This is a relatively unexplored aging method in Australian whisky, and I believe (but could be wrong) that Starward was the first to age whisky this way here. Starward’s approach not only helps to achieve consistency and complexity, but it also means that some of Starward’s very first batch of Starward from 2013 is still every individual dram.
Wikipedia sums it all up nicely: Solera is a process for aging liquids … by fractional blending in such a way that the finished product is a mixture of ages, with the average age gradually increasing as the process continues over many years
Another point of difference in the Starward Solera is that it’s makers are not scared to promote their single malt whiskies use in cocktails and mixed drinks. It’s pretty unusual to see an Aussie single malt producer (well, any single malt producer come to think of it) really embrace the cocktail scene preferring to focus on the ‘malt whisky is sipped neat’ attitude. Starward not only embrace the use of their products in exotic mixological creations but they’re also equally happy to promote it’s use in mixed drinks.
Founder David Vitale, grew up in a big Italian family. He’s food obsessed without ever getting too serious or formal about it. Or as Starward themselves say – “Raise a few eyebrows and bring a bottle to BBQ. Pour it with tonic and watch jaws go to the floor. It’s an eye-opening business, this new world of whisky drinking.” And why not? Especially now it’s officially spring, and imminent hot weather on the way, why not do a bit of experimenting with some cocktails on the deck or around the pool. And this is the perfect Aussie whisky to do it with! The Starward website has some fantastic cocktail recipes.
Colour: Coppery-gold Nose: Muted oak underlies a real stewed apricot vibe with sweet fruit pastilles and there’s also a touch of citrus there.
Palate: Coats the mouth nicely. Fruit mince, poached pears in brown sugar with custard and lovely oak notes just making themselves known in the background.
Finish: Nice and rounded. Mild pepper coats the mouth whilst toasted oak and that lovely fruitiness peaks through the cracks.
This is a nice and light whisky yet it packs a mouthful of pepper-fruity Apera bliss! This will come into its own when the weather warms again. Put some in a highball, make a whisky soda, or try it mixed with whatever you love! Go on…no one’s watching and I won’t tell if you don’t!