Starward Two-Fold Double Grain 40%

Australia deserves its reputation for fabulous wines and – yes – whisky! So why not combine? While Tasmania dominates, Starward prove you can be in Melbourne and deliver something worthy of attention with distinction – by consistently maturing their whisky in wine barrels.

So when this wee sample showed up as a “bonus” with a larger whisky order, I was delighted to have a chance to check out how this distillery has evolved.

Starward Two-Fold Double Grain 40%

  • Colour – Reddish copper, even a bit of sediment
  • Nose – Clear influence of the wine casks, rich dried berries, coffee toffee sweets, creamy vanilla
  • Palate – Sharp, intense, dark fruits and berries, dark chocolate, tannins
  • Finish – Spice, red wine, bitter close, lingers

It was a bit hard to imagine this was only 40%… the flavours were much sharper and more intense. Certainly young but interesting. A definite departure from a classic Scottish dram – a bit edgier and funkier, in a good way.

Starward Two Fold

What do the folks at Starward have to say?

Smooth, tropical, lightly spiced. 

An Australian double-grain whisky. For depth, we use malted barley, just like our Nova. For an aromatic, dry flavour, we use Australian wheat.

Lightly charred or steamed barrels. Sourced from Australian wineries that make great shiraz, cabernets and pinot noirs. Often filled fresh when the barrel is still wet with wine. We mature each whisky separately in Melbourne’s wildly varied climate, then deftly combine. Smooth as silk. Spiced vanilla, tropical fruits and cereal characters rounded with red apples and berries.

Here are their official tasting notes:

  • Nose / Bright red berries coated in buttery vanilla spice.
  • Palate / Imagine a smooth, rich caramel dessert balanced by tropical fruit.
  • Finish / Delicate and long. A delicious, dry finish from a faded sweetness.

They go on to add:

We carefully select barrels from vineyards making great Aussie reds like shiraz, cabernet and pinot noir. These give our new make spirit tasty fruit, caramel and spice notes. To keep as much of a fresh red wine flavour profile as possible, we source barrels from just a day’s drive away. We either lightly char or quickly blast barrels with steam. Many are still wet with wine when we fill them. Flavour obsessed as ever, we fill each barrel at a lower alcohol proof than is traditional. This means our whisky draws more lip-smacking red wine fruit characters and tannins.

Then, it’s time for Melbourne’s climate to shine. Or, rather, rain and shine in a wildly unpredictable way. Famed for its ‘four seasons in a day’, Melbourne’s fluctuating climate means Two-Fold extracts more flavour from the barrel in a much shorter time than is traditional. After just three years, both barley and wheat whiskies are ready to be expertly combined.

At approx Eur 40, it isn’t as pricey as some other Starward’s we’ve come across… Here are a few earlier explorations of Starward:

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Jamaican Rum Masterclass with Luca Gargano

From the archives, as part of my countdown to two weekends of whiskies – Paris Whisky Live 2022 and London Whisky Show 2022,

And what is this about? From Singapore Whisky Live 2018, I stumbled across a partially drafted post about a fabulous and fascinating masterclass with Luca Gargano on Jamaican Rum. While my flight back Sunday prevents me from joining his Paris Whisky Live 2022 masterclass, I would strongly recommend joining such a session with Luca – both to increase knowledge on rums and entertainment!

Our Jamaican Rum Masterclass with Luca explored five rums… of which notes for the following seem to have been lost in my old whisky tasting book…

  • Hampden Estate Overproof 60%
  • Long Pond’s Vale Royal VRW 2006 62.5%
  • Long Pond’s Cambridge STCE 2005 62.5%

However, I do have teasingly brief notes of two rums… alas without Luca’s colorful stories!

Worthy Park Single Estate Reserve 45%

  • Nose – Rich raisins, currents, very sweet, tight berries, tropical fruits, marigold or chrysanthemum, after some time muted apples
  • Palate – A bit of spice, slightly sour too, yet quite appealing, more of those rich raisins rolling around on the palate

Luca shared it is a new release and 1st edition, pot still, around 8 years, aging from 2009/10 then a blend…

Hampden Estate 46%

  • Nose – Quite aromatic, sweet sugars, almost cognac-like, vanilla, then quite tropical, burnt toast, caramel
  • Palate – Smooth, accessible, load of juicy fermented fruits, sweet and sour, well rounded

Luca noted it is around 8 years, aging from 2009/10…

Yup – that’s it! Not much however it reminds me of the value of taking good notes and writing up what is interesting immediately…. even if the posts are published much later. 😉

And as a round up, here are more rums which I sampled with Luca earlier in the day in the VIP room:

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Islay Duo – Bruichladdich vs Kilchoman

When the weather is wet, cold and miserable, there is nothing like a bit of peat in your whisky to pick you up! While we still have a few more days of summery weather, our last selection of the evening from a Drinks by the Drams Single Cask Whisky Advent Calendar turned to a pair of peaty Islay single casks, bottled by the folks over at Master of Malts:

  • Bruichladdich 16 year (2002) Single Cask 62.6%
  • Kilchoman 6 year (2012) Cask 405/2012 56.9%

We began with the Bruichladdich….

Bruichladdich 16 year (2002) Single Cask 62.6%

  • Nose – Initially greeted us with some maritime sea spray, then the peat subtly surfaced more and more, a lovely herbal sweetness, toffee… then after the initial sip, we were rewarded with sweet maple bacon, sweet grass
  • Palate – Yum! Such delicious peat – Montreal smoked meats, roast pork, tobacco, frankly just very tasty!
  • Finish – Really long lovely smoke 
  • Water? I felt no need to add however one of my tasting companions did and shared how it made the whisky much sweeter

For me, this was a singularly fine specimen from Bruichladdich! We speculated it must come from the “Port Charlotte” line – clear stamp of peat but not amped up like an “Octomore”!

What more do we know? Here is what the folks over at Master of Malt have to say:

A wonderful bottle of Bruichladdich, bottled by yours truly – that’s right, it was bottled by Master of Malt! This 16 year old single malt was distilled on Islay back in July 2002 and filled into a refill sherry hogshead, where it slumbered until January 2019, when we bottled it up at cask strength, with no chill-filtration or additional colouring.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

  • Nose: Apple and dried pear, golden syrup over steamed pudding, thick vanilla and toasted almond, then freshly polished wood and light wood smoke.
  • Palate: Toasted barley, brown sugar, vanilla and lemon peels lead. Plenty of earthy spice and oak shavings emerge underneath.
  • Finish: Lasting citrus sweetness and vanilla-y barley.

As on September 2022 it is still available for a whopping Eur 210!


What next? We moved on to the Kilchoman…

Kilchoman 6 year (2012) Cask 405/2012 56.9%

  • Nose – Iodine and bandaid adhesive, smoke meats and spice, pastrami and toast
  • Palate– Sweet and peat, some spice, young with the wood element clearly showing through
  • Finish – Warm and lasting

While we couldn’t say for sure, it was clear this had something more than an ex-bourbon cask at work. Was it sherry or something else? Who knew but it added a nice sweetness.

As for the Kilchoman? The folks over at Master of Malt also had something to share:

A single cask bottling of tasty Islay single malt from the Kilchoman distillery, bottled for Drinks by the Dram! This one was matured for 6 years, from July 2012 to August 2018, which included a finishing period in a red wine cask, before being bottled at cask strength.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

  • Nose: Scones, jam and clotted cream – a classic combo. Lasting earthy peat and some tobacco notes later on.
  • Palate: Digestive biscuits, salted butter, raspberry and soft sandalwood hints.
  • Finish: Clove, cinnamon, barley, smoke and oily walnut.

It is now sold out, however, when it was available it was priced at approximately Eur 92.

And there we have it, three pairs of samples explored and enjoyed!

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Going Grainy – Girvan 30 year and Cameronbridge 36 year

Grains are rarely found solo as their main purpose is to round out the more dynamic malts in a blend. However, there has been increasing attention on some grains – including Cameronbridge with its new “Haig” brand.

So we decided to turn our attention to grains and select a pair from our Drinks by the Drams Single Cask Whisky Advent Calendar:

  • Girvan 30 year (1988) cask 13076 58.1% (Xtra Old Particular)
  • Cameronbridge 36 year (1982) cask 8289 His Excellency (Bartels Whisky) 51.9%

Both are from the Lowlands region in Scotland and we began our exploration with the Girvan…

Girvan 30 year (1988) cask 13076 58.1% (Xtra Old Particular) 230 bottles

  • Nose – Yikes! Is that glue? The kind of old-style molding glue from childhood, a bio-chemistry lab… a bit of citrus polish, some tannins? Then a curious thing began to happen… after our 1st sip, it opened up, unfurling like a flower from which a joyful honeyed perfume emerged, joined by milk chocolate, vanilla, chocolate, over-ripe fruits – particularly bananas, then more floral and herbal
  • Palate – Wow! Pure honey delight! Then deepens into chocolate, full, rounded with a lovely balance, fruity with resins, ‘sacher torte’, heavy oils, phenomenally creamy, showing its maturity
  • Finish – Lovely finish with more chocolate, sweetly lingers

There was such a surprise with this one – the initial aroma was not at all inspiring but then on the palate? Just fabulous! And when we went back to the nose, it just became more and more interesting and inviting. Even hours later the empty glass was a delight. This was an exceptional grain and we were lucky to have an opportunity to try it. Whilst now sold out, it was once available at Master of malt for Eur 166.

What do the folks at Master of Malt have to say?

Distilled in July 1988 at Girvan, this single grain Scotch whisky was aged in a single refill hogshead which yielded 230 bottles. After 30 years this special liquid was bottled at 58.1% ABV in March 2019, for Douglas Laing’s Xtra Old Particular series. Very extra and very old indeed.

Tasting Note by The Producer

  • Nose: The nose brings a vanilla fudge character with milky cereal and rhubarb.
  • Palate: The creamy palate bursts with toffee apples, pineapple chunks in syrup and cinnamon.
  • Finish: The finish is long and warming with polished oak, BBQ’d bananas and runny honey.

We then moved on to our next grain… this time 36 years!

Cameronbridge 36 year (Feb 1982/Nov 2018) cask 8289 His Excellency (Bartels Whisky) 51.9% 192 bottles

  • Nose – Clean and fresh, light and very sweet, a hint of fruit, friendly or sympathetic but then… nothing much more
  • Palate – Very sweet, a bit of roasted barley or biscuits, pleasant but unidimensional, some sweet grapes, apples, or even a grappa-like quality
  • Finish – A bitter edge, a touch of caraway

While it had a promising start, it quickly fell short. After the Girvan, we were expecting, well, more. It is a quite pleasant grain, but misses having something distinguishing or remarkable. We concluded that it simply isn’t a ‘solo act’, singing a single simple melody that is nice and uncomplicated but would probably be more interesting when in harmony with others.

What more do we know? Well, the folks at Master of Malt have this to say when it was for sale for EUR 75 – now sold out:

As part of the His Excellency series, Bartels Whisky have bottled a rather delightful 36 Year Old single grain from Cameronbridge, the largest grain distillery in Europe. It was taken from a single cask, filled in February 1982 and then bottled November 2018. A limited outturn of only 192 bottles.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

  • Nose: Cereal notes, creamy milk chocolate and fruit cake with cinnamon and ginger spices.
  • Palate: Stewed apples, another helping of spices and digestive biscuits.
  • Finish: Think scones with clotted cream and zingy jam.

Curious about other experiences with these grains? Here are a few previous brushes:

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Getting started – Royal Brackla vs Tamdhu

It felt a bit like putting on ‘training wheels’… getting back into the spirit of tasting spirits with a small selection from a Drinks by the Drams Single Cask Whisky Advent Calendar.

We chose our first ‘double header’ with two single casks from independent bottlers:

  • Royal Brackla 11 year (2006) cask 310864 60.9% (The Single Cask)
  • Tamdhu 11 year (2007) cask 6833 61.9% (Lady of the Glen – Hannah Whisky Merchants)

Royal Brackla 11 year (2006) cask 310864 60.9% (The Single Cask) 285 bottles

  • Nose – Apple core, pear, loads of orchard fruits, Johannisbeer (red currents) or sour cherries… then it started to evolve from fresh fruits to dry fruits with raisins
  • Palate – Initially quite a shock to the system – hot and quite a punch of alcohol! Then we started to adjust… with the spice comes some of the fruit promises on the nose, however still masked by the cask strength
  • Finish – Nice! A bit bitter, some tobacco leaf with a lovely teasing spice

This was my 1st pick of the evening. In retrospect, we perhaps should have ‘eased’ into tasting with a ‘palate calibrating’ lighter 43 – 46% whisky. However, instead, we plunged into the ‘deep end’ going straight to full cask strength at 60.9%!

This is why we quickly switched to adding a few drops of water – transformative!

  • Nose – So delightfully aromatic! From fruits to toffee, a hint of wood then a green leaf, fresh and fabulous! Then back to fruity desserts with a generous dollop of rich cream
  • Palate – Delicious! So much fuller, bursting with fruits and cream, indulgent and just a wee bit voluptuous, sweeter, brighter

Definitely have this one with water – it opens it up beautifully! With a splash, the whisky revealed its classic character, well constructed with all elements in harmony. We concluded this is a lovely summer dram

What more do we know? It is an ex-bourbon American oak single cask bottle by The Single Cask. I’m not sure if you can still snag a bottle however once upon a time, it was available for  GBP 85 and here is what they have to say:

  • Nose: Fruit and barley springs from your glass, followed by musty oak green ferns dusted with white pepper.
  • Palate: A soothing balm of oak and spice that’s both rich and sweet with rock sugar, green tea and white wine.
  • Finish: A mellow and long finish where that rock sugar and white wine lingers alongside some dusky oak. 

We then shifted gears to something completely different with the Tamdhu.

Tamdhu 11 year (2007) cask 6833 61.9% (Lady of the Glen – Hannah Whisky Merchants) 60 bottles

  • Nose – Oh my! Very metallic, stainless steel, wet granite, then quite vegetal, cabbage, then began to open up more – with some sweetness seeming into the mix. Primary notes remained metallic and mineral joined also by light saline… as it continued to air, became chocolaty with salted pralines, some nuts
  • Palate– Quite thick, wood and leather, tobacco leaf, mild sweetness, solid character of chocolaty toffee
  • Finish – Very mild, a hint of bitter
  • Water – DON’T! We found it needs the full cask strength to better show off its character, particularly loses out on the palate with water – just became harsh with spice and little else

What a contrast to the Royal Brackla! While our first was a summer dram, the Tamdhu was pure autumn. We found it very smooth and not at all sharp – deceptive at such a high cask strength. There is also an almost marine quality –  unexpected for a landlocked distillery like Knockando.

Along with it being more of a fall dram, we also thought it better suited to ‘bad weather’ dram – something to enjoy coming in from miserable wet, cool conditions. While not something exceptional, it was a whisky we put in the category of: ‘interesting to try once, not one to run out and buy’.

What more do we know? The folks at Lady of the Glen kindly keep an archive of older bottles here and have this to say:

This single malt whisky was distilled on the 24th of September 2007 and bottled on the 10th of April 2019. 50 litres were taken from Bourbon Hogshead cask #6833 to be finished in an intense Pedro Ximenez sherry octave #6833A for 3 months. This is the second and final batch of this particular release. A unique whisky, as only 60 bottles were yielded from this octave.

Our Pedro Ximenez octaves are sourced from a family-owned bodgega near Porto in Portugal. Pedro Ximenez is a very intense sweet, dark sherry. Octaves are small 50 litre oak casks that provide great levels of oak to spirit contact.

On the palate, expect flavours of hazelnut, dark toffee and butterscotch.

What an interesting start to our tasting evening. We took a break for a terrific dinner at Estragon… and returned to check out two pairs of grains and Islay drams.

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Getting back into tasting! With miniatures…

One of my favourite ways to taste whiskies is at home, with a friend or two, focused on some interesting whiskies. Even better if they feature miniatures that we would likely never buy – either as they are too rare or too expensive! Back in 2019, pre-Brexit, I bought myself a treat of Drinks by the Drams Single Cask Whisky Advent Calendar, sampled a few but then set aside for when could share the experience with one or two fellow whisky aficionados.

Fast forward to a fine 2022 September evening in Nurnberg with friends. We had dinner plans however a wee whisky tasting was also on our evening agenda. Out came the miniatures and we each picked whiskies we were curious to try.

We decided to pair up our choices – two before dinner as an “appetizer”, then two additional pairs post dinner.

What did we start with?

And then our next set? Here we shifted gears completely and selected two grains:

Our final set was a further contrast – switching to peated Islay drams with:

It was a lovely evening and good fun to contrast and compare without distraction.

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