50 Bertie Street, Port Melbourne

Australian craft spirits with a great cellar door

When it comes to the world of craft spirits, a home- grown tribe of distillers is doing just that; crafting unique, creative spirits that locals can claim as their own on the world stage.

These locally made spirits take their place in the laneway and rooftop bars of the city, where bartenders push the boundaries with experimental cocktails, left of centre food pairings and (most recently) drinks concocted of only locally sourced produce. These creations contribute to an Australian identity and flavour that’s finding its place within the global industry.

One of these pioneers is STARWARD Distillery, home to a distinctly Australian whisky. Founder, David Vitale, had always fostered a love of craft beers, but it wasn’t until he visited a distillery in Tasmania that he discovered his true passion – boutique spirits. He spent nine years researching and developing a recipe, experimenting and experiencing all the triumphs and challenges of maturating craft whisky.

Today, with a dedicated team of passionate brewers and ex-winemakers, equipped with an enormous collection of premium Australian wine barrels, STARWARD is producing an award-winning whisky that’s captured the attention of not only Australia, but the world. It’s one of the boutique drinks that is leading a community of craft spirit makers to international renown, a movement driven by passionate producers and a public increasingly willing to try interesting drinking and dining experiences.

For some, the ‘four seasons in a day’ reputation is a downside to living in this city, but for STARWARD it is what helps set the product apart. Melbourne’s famously unpredictable weather pushes its whisky barrels to extremes. In David’s first distillery location, a former Qantas maintenance hangar in Essendon Fields, the team painted the exterior as dark as possible to exacerbate the effects of the stifling heat and winter chill. The new site, an old manufacturing warehouse from the 1920s, is clad in dark metal to amplify the city’s temperature changes as well. As the barrels expand and contract, the wood imbues the whisky with unique characteristics.

Another key element that sets the whisky apart is the Australian red wine barrels that come from neighbouring wine regions such as Nagambie, Barossa Valley and the Yarra Valley. While spirits leave the still clear – it’s the barrels that alter the whisky’s colour, aroma and flavour profile. By maturing the whisky in rich shiraz, pinot and table-wine barrels from Australia’s renowned viticulture regions, STARWARD’s whisky takes on a rich amber colour and a complex set of flavours and aromas.

This process has created a whisky that is garnering global accolades: STARWARD won Best Craft Distiller Whiskey at the San Francisco Global Spirits Competition, and took out Best Australian Single Malt at the World Whiskies Awards in London. Finally, Australian craft spirits are pushing for international glory, just as our wines have done for decades, showing the world unique products that speak of their antipodean origin.

No spirit reaches these heights without fervent support from bartenders and patrons. Melbourne’s leading cocktail bars champion their local favourite in a myriad of ways. Each bar finds creative means to express the characteristics of the whisky, with some bartenders even visiting the distillery to pick their favourite barrels. At this rate, it won’t be long until STARWARD takes pride of place on back bars across New York, London and Tokyo, alongside handcrafted Australian gins and liqueurs.

With barrels imbued with the history of local wineries and the whisky matured by the temperamental Melbourne weather, STARWARD is a quintessentially Australian product – a whisky to call our own. Made possible by a creative, innovative culture, a hospitality industry proud to support local producers, and demand for high quality drinking and dining, this is an elixir born of the best of Melbourne.

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