Starward 10th Anniversary 52%

In the grand scheme of things, 10 years may not seem like a long time. However in the context of a young Australian upstart which challenged conventional thinking about maturing whiskies, casks and more, all with a goal of creating something accessible and affordable, well…. then it is something to celebrate indeed!

Starward 10th Anniversary 52%

  • Colour – A beautiful deep dark ruby
  • Nose – Strong black cherry, intense and concentrated, prunes, old dark wood, cherry brandy, peppery – mostly black peppercorn, rich burnt cake, toffee, dark chocolate, burnt orange, cinnamon, dark purple grapes
  • Palate – Sugar sweet, tart, had a definite kick, while a bit odd initially and took some time to adjust to its concentrated quality, the wood, dark cherry, berries, figs, toasted oak, creamy vanilla, rummy raisins
  • Finish – A lovely black pepper spice that sweetens

Above all, for me this whisky was a heavy rich tapestry of intense flavours.

We decided to add a generous dollop of water to see if it tamed it. What did we discover?

  • Nose – Brought out loads of fruits, while retaining the richness
  • Palate – Absolutely gorgeous! Turned down the volume on the intensity without diminishing the character or complexity
  • Finish – Retained the lovely spice

When we returned, it was distinctly flat coca-cola! Then shifted into a very tasty creme brûlée,

There was no doubt this was quite a whisky. It reminded me of the richness of some Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask or Paul John’s Kanya. What they both have in common is accelerated absorption of the barrel’s interaction with the new make spirit thanks to the respective climates in Australia, Taiwan and India.

So what is the story behind this dram?

Apparently it is a vatted blend of 28 casks of various ages and 8 different types used throughout Starward’s 10 years, of which most are first fill Apera, Pedro Ximenez and red wine barrels.

What would it set you back? If you bought it at the Whisky Exchange, as this one was, then £79.95.

Here are a few other Starward‘s explored:

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Starward Solera 43%

Solera is the process of transferring part of maturing liquid from one barrel to another in a continuous rotation, typically used in making Sherry. In Australia, this method can be found in the making of Australia’s equivalent of Sherry – Apera – and now also in Starward’s “Solera” whisky which uses this system to bring consistency to each batch from their Apera barrels. As they put it, it also

means that every Apera barrel we have ever emptied is in every bottle of STARWARD Solera.” 

A few years ago, the Whisky Ladies were introduced to Starward with an early Solera version… and it was such a pleasure to try its newer avatar as part of a Starward trio…

Courtesy Anish Trivedi

Starward Solera 43%

  • Nose – Lemon, fruity, varnish, wet bread, burgundy, even some pear drop buried beneath the top notes, more of that wood, vanilla… then lemon curd
  • Palate – Much more going on than the nose would suggest – has a “graph” to how the palate evolves from soft to strength and substance, even a hint of brine
  • Finish – Strong… with some liquorice

We found it much more enjoyable than the “project”, easily accessible..

We weren’t sure whether water should or should not be divided.

After some time, we returned to be greeted by a delightful “cotton candy” aroma, still initially light but retained the substance. Delicious!

And what do the folks over at Starward have to say?

The original STARWARD is solely matured in Australian fortified wine barrels, which are hand selected, re-coopered, re-toasted and re-sized specifically for aging our spirit.

These barrels have formerly contained Apera, which is an Australian take on Spanish sherry. These barrels are 40-50 years old and have rich and complex flavours of dried fruit, spice and sweetness.

Here are a few other Starward’s explored:

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Starward Wine Cask Project (2018) 41%

Starward’s New World Project series is deliberately intended to “buck” whisky convention. In truth, what is bottled is not “whisky” at all by the traditional guide of requiring a minimum of 3 years maturation. Instead it is a malted barley spirit, playing around with different wine casks – either fortified or table wine – in this case an undisclosed red wine.

And what better way to kick of our evening exploring Starward than with one of their experimental wine cask projects!

Starward New World Project Wine Cask 2.25 yr malted barley spirit batch 170721-A (8 Aug 2017) 41%

  • Nose – Pear drops, autumn leaves, wood, fresh sap, bourbon, very sweet, raw molasses then shifted into a lighter caramel, orange concentrate
  • Palate – Smooth yet youthful and a bit raw, a tinge salty, marzipan, fruits
  • Finish – Sits there with a slight nuttiness

Overall the aromas were much more interesting than the palate – one even described it as “palate stripping!”

It was certainly interesting… we wondered what it would be like with water. For those who added, it lost the delightful pear on the aroma and didn’t gain much on the palate or finish.

And when we returned after some time… was quite sour on the nose, became quite tart on the palate – think the inside of a kumquat.

My strong recommendation with this one is enjoy it but don’t linger too long. Or perhaps try it one of the many cocktails the folks at Starward recommend.

As for its cost? This bottle was purchased at The Whisky Exchange, London and currently retails for £50.25.

Here are a few other Starward‘s explored:

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Starward Flight – Wine Project, Solera, 10th Anniversary

What would happen if you matured whisky fully in a red wine barrel rather than merely finish?

And what if the temperature swings of Melbourne’s climate was used as an asset rather than adversity?

Even more, what if your goal was to go against the trend of ever increasingly expensive whiskies to craft something affordable, approachable and distinctly Australian?

Well if you were the folks over at Starward distillery in Melbourne, Australia this would be exactly the questions you are dedicated to answer!

Here is the trio we explored:

What a treat to sample each side by side in Mumbai early March 2018.

Interested in exploring other Australian whiskies? Check out:

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Whisky Live 2018 – Sullivans Cove

In the main floor of Whisky Live 2018, it was such a treat to meet Patrick Maguire of Sullivan’s Cove.

While we sipped away, Patrick regaled us with their passion for the craft and preference for small and old fashioned approaches that may require patience yet produce results that cannot be rushed.

All the while, I quietly sniffed, swished and sampled two of their malts.

Double Barrel (12 Dec 2007/24 Jan 2018) Double Cask No DC098 Barrel No 45%

  • Nose – A lovely fruit – particularly pear and apple
  • Palate – Balanced texture
  • Finish – Darker

Patrick shared it is a combination of French Oak and American casks – typically aged 10 – 18 years, sometimes using up to 6 different barrels to get the right balance.

After the Double Cask, we moved on to a single cask matured in American Oak – ex JD barrels to be precise.

American Oak Single Cask (9 Jun 2006/20 Aug 2018) Barrel No TD0108 47.5%

  • Nose – Lovely ex-bourbon aromas, wood, vanilla, a whiff of forrest
  • Palate – Some spice, wood
  • Finish – Warm, long and strong

It was truly memorable to meet the man behind the malt… and one of the reasons to

You can find more experiences from Whisky Live 2018 Singapore here.

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Sullivans Cove 16 year 47.5%

Sullivans Cove shot from quiet quality in a special niche corner to global prominence a few years ago thanks to a few well deserved awards. Since then, tracking down a bottle is challenging… even more so to find one with an age statement.

Our merry Mumbai malters were earlier introduced to the Sullivans Cove French Oak Cask and not so long ago our Whisky Ladies went on a Trans Tasmanian Tour which included  Sullivans Cove Double Cask, yet these glimpses into what Tasmania has to offer and more specifically Sullivans Cove remain rare opportunities here in Mumbai.

Which made it all the more interesting to discover, sampling completely blind this beauty…

Sullivans Cove 16 year (05 Dec 2000/22 Feb 2016) Barrel No HH0561 47.5% Bottle No 74 of 120, Non-chill filtered, American oak ex-bourbon cask

  • Colour – Dark gold
  • Nose – Sharp, distinctive, came across as high alcohol initially, then opened into a tropical fruit paradise, some biscuit, compost and wet earth, moss, it then rapidly dissipated closing up… with a few deep sniffs could discern rubber, cashew feni… quite tricky on the nose as it was on the one hand a bit sharp and on the other hand shy… After the 1st sip revealed pears, dry copra, beyond the coconut, the tropical fruits really came to the fore, quite lively… After quite some time and a revisit, there was paan betel nut too!
  • Palate – Barley water and really rather sweet, then the spice grows, not harsh but surprisingly forceful, chew and get cinnamon. It had this most amazingly deceptive quality of seeming mellow and yet take a good swish and breath in to find SPICE!  Yet equally take a small slow sip and it was like honey water with just a dash of pepper,  so so smooth
  • Finish – A funny sort of finish… An immediate ‘flash’ then just holds you gently for quite some time
  • Water – Most were not tempted. Those that did found it took the sharp and spice mellowing it to modest and nice.

While initially the nose gave a sense of alcohol strength, the palate clearly put this into perspective with a determination it must be below 48%. There were many aspects of this whisky that were ‘tricky’ – in a very interesting way. It also was one that demanded time and attention. Sit back, relax and enjoy the dialectic.

With some whiskies, we find the flavour profiles are fairly universal – accessible to practically anyone in the world. In cases like this Sullivans Cove, we found many qualities that fit perfectly with the palate of Indian fruits, spices, country liquor and deserts. Which made it all the more meaningful and memorable to enjoy in India.

What else do we know about this Tasmanian dram? Here is what they say…

To create this exceptional Single Malt Whisky our distiller has selected the highest quality local ingredients and American Oak ex-Bourbon casks. The award winning result is elegant and creamy exhibiting sweet malt, vanilla and citrus notes with a lingering finish. Taste our splendid isolation, indulge your senses.

Our host admitted this bottle set him back a pretty penny. I do believe something like $400 was mentioned, in large part as a rather hefty “Angel’s Share” made the remaining liquid all the more precious.

What did we try in our “pedigree” evening?

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Pedigree Malts – Midleton, Sullivans Cove, Kilkerran

There is no doubt that the world of whisky has changed and will continue to change. What has emerged are a few players that are truly “pedigree” even if their origins are not your typical Scottish… Brands that are being recognized for their consistent calibre…

We were treated to such a trio on a fine monsoon swept evening in Mumbai… Each was sampled completely blind with the reveal done only after all three were given our full and careful consideration.

What did we try in our Pedigree Malts?

While none of these are the “traditional” pedigree vintage whiskies, each has a dedication to quality that shines through.

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Vault Collection – Hellyers Road Pinot Noir Finish 46.2%

The Vault Fine Spirits has single handed expanded the range of whiskies and other spirits available in India – more specifically through our Duty Free. Which is exactly the theme of the session – exploring a trio from this collection.

First up in the “The Vault Collection” trio was a blind tasting of a whisky from Tasmania, Australia. Our guest writer Nikkhil had the following tasting notes to share.

Pour 1: Hellyers Road-Pinot Noir Finish 46.2% | Non Chill Filtered | NAS

  • Color: Gold
  • Nose: Dense sweet chocolate, sweet and lactic at the same time. Light varnish notes, burnt matches. Then starfruit citrus with curious notes of paan and nutmeg. Most unusual nose and certainly non-Scottish. Let’s see how the palate lives up
  • Palate: Intensely roasted coffee beans. It was literally like chewing on the beans. Then came the sweet fruity flavors of pears and overripe pineapples. That lactic, porridge flavor was back. With a little time, it got spicy with bitter tannic notes at the back of the throat. This seems young and confused. Bottled a tad too early?
  • With water and about 20 mins of rest it didn’t change much. On the palate, it was now a tad oily with some cold coffee but the bitterness continues.
  • Finish: Very dry and the tannic bitterness continues.

As usual it was time to guess. This was most definitely non-Scottish. One member nailed it down to Tasmanian. And there it was, Hellyers Road! A very challenging whisky certainly not for the novice. Would like to revisit it once it settles down in the bottle. But based on the first impression it was certainly not my kind of a dram.

Official notes:  

The nose is immediately drawn to crisp summer citrus, lemon and orange that obediently withdraws on the palate to manifest a sweet, gentle layer of pepper and spice – a persuasion of the red wine cameo. Burnt blackberry sauce lingers in the aftertaste foreclosing a treasured confusion of the senses.

The Vault Collection trio:

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“Trans Tasman Tour” Crazy Uncle Monsoon 43%

It was inspired by a crazy 90 year old uncle, saved for 2 years to share with the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai and finally opened one fine evening…

Whipersnapper’s Crazy Uncle Moonshine Barrel Aged 43%, Bottle 1/15

Truth be told, there were no tasting notes taken… instead we passed around this mad moonshine and shared tales of the crazy uncles in our lives. Some stories terribly amusing, others humbling and touching… all testament to the cantankerous and curiously compellingly kind mad men who make an impact.

So what else made it into our “Trans Tasman” explorations?

Curious about more? Check out the Australia and New Zealand section in the Asia Pacific whiskies page.

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“Trans Tasman Tour” – Sullivans Cove Double Cask 40%

After some experimental whiskies from Australia and New Zealand, it was time to turn to one we had high hopes would satisfy our craving for something a bit more complex and perhaps even a bit more classic…

Based in Tasmania, Sullivans Cove is one of the distilleries that put Australian whiskies on the world map. And with good reason.

Tasmania’s Sullivans Cove Double Cask (2008/2015) 40%

  • Nose – Fruity, spice, finally a “proper” whisky, a bit of Amarula creaminess, some ripe bananas, forest greens, mud and moss, nice and earthy, then flowers
  • Palate – Comes together beautifully, some coriander, full and well rounded, some raisins, accessible yet satisfying
  • Finish – The icing on the cake, fabulous light yet has substance morphing into cherry, dark chocolate, cinnamon

There is a certain elegance to this whisky. It is both classic and modern. What we also remarked is that though only 40%, this was a proper full whisky that left nothing out.

We sampled the DC080 which is a combination of a French Oak Australian Port Cask and American Oak Bourbon Cask, using barrels HH0203, HH0206, HH0272, HH0408, HH0437 with the youngest from 22/08/2000, Bottled 13/07/2015. We sampled Bottle 1,458 of 1,556, freshly opened that evening.

Here is what the Sullivans Cove have to say about their Double Cask, appreciating there is variation between editions:

  • Nose – Vanilla, soft malt and orchard fruits
  • Palate – Honey, boiled lollies and buttered scones
  • Finish – Mild spices and soft oak with lingering creamy sweetness

So what else made it into our “Trans Tasman” explorations?

Curious about more? Check out the Australia and New Zealand section in the Asia Pacific whiskies page.

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