Starward do things a little differently. Unlike many other urban distilleries, the Melbourne-based whisky makers do not produce their spirit on the outskirts of town. They heat up their stills right there in the city center! And they are hosts as much as they are distillers. Besides production and storage facilities, Starward Distillery also has its own restaurant and bar. The latter is on an ongoing mission to offer Melbourne’s biggest selection of drams. When another place announces that they have beaten Starward in regard to the number of open bottles, founder David Vitale and his team take on the challenge. And the next day you can be sure that Starward’s repertoire will have grown accordingly. This being said, they do not follow this objective with zeal – like everything else they do, they see it as a friendly sport that has one overarching goal: to be a ton of fun!
This easy-going attitude is also reflected in their latest whisky release: Starward Left-Field. It is a wonderfully smooth and satisfying every day sipper, bottled with a lean ABV of 40 per cent yet bursting with flavor. It is fully matured in French red wine casks and available for the bargain price of round about 30 Euro. Here in Germany, Starward Left-Field will launch through Kirsch Import on February 25. One week earlier, on February 18, I already had the chance to try the new Starward expression during an exclusive online launch event via Zoom. As expected, I had a splendid time at the virtual Left-Field premiere!
Besides myself, several of my fave whisky writers and content creators were present: Whisky & Vinyl, Whisky-Helden, Coffee, Whisky & More, WhiskyBuzz, Zucker und Zeste, WhiskyGermany and several others. Together, we went through a most excellent program that consisted of a talk and tasting with whisky maker David Vitale, a food pairing with whisky cook Chris Pepper and a cocktail class with expert mixologist Christoph Henkel. Throughout the evening they received excellent support from the Kirsch crew (Julia, Jannik and Maik).
When he introduced us to Starward’s latest creation, David Vitale compared Left-Field to a barley schnaps rather than a rough spirit. He and his team designed the soft and sapid sip with an evergreen in mind, which they hold in very high regard: Glenfiddich 12 Years Old. Inspired by the world-famous Speysider, the Australian whisky makers gave their creation some really nice apple and pear notes. Other scents and smacks were berries, almonds, nuts, honey, cocoa, mint and spices. On the palate, the whisky felt light and pleasing at first. It then developed a certain freshness. Towards the end it turned dry and tongue-coating. The red wine casks worked wonders here. In the final product, they are neither too dominant nor too shy. They are just right to give Left-Field a very likable character and a colorful array of flavors. Later on, David delved deeper into the topic of cask management. “We’re very focussed on one style,” he said, “namely ‘wine-cask matured whisky’. But within this style there is so much opportunity and variety because wine is such a complex, diverse drink.” In addition to the wood, the equipment and the make, he also mentioned another factor that favors the grade-A quality of Left-Field in particular and Starward Whisky in general: the Melbourne climate, which promotes a fast maturation.
At this point, we knew first-hand that Left-Field was a total treat when drunken neat. But that is only one area in which it shines. True to Starward’s philosophy of making accessible and approachable whisky that is best enjoyed in good company, the red wine cask-matured drop also harmonizes perfectly with food and mixers. You can produce this bottle when your geeky dramming buddies come over to explore new stuff; you can produce it when you have a nice dinner with your friends or family; and you can produce it when you enjoy some refreshing whisky cocktails with your buddies. Whatever the occasion, Left-Field is a good choice!
We learned about the whisky’s suitability as a companion for both fancy and down-to-earth dishes in the course of a lil’ food pairing. For this purpose, Chris Pepper – the mastermind behind Mr. Pepper’s by Whiskykoch – had presented us with three special treats: an apple and almond soup, a hummus parcel and a honey crunch praline. These were super-tasty and marked great counterparts to the whisky. Some of their qualities harmonized with Left-Field’s flavor profile, others contrasted it. This created a most exciting culinary experience! Afterwards, we ended the evening with two classy cocktails from Christoph Henkel: the “Classic Crusta” and the “Wine Fashioned”. According to Christoph, both recipes were easy enough so that even inexperienced mixologists could prepare them at home; yet they were also special enough so that they showed all-new sides of Left-Field. And indeed: The star of the evening proved to be as great a cocktail malt as it proved to be a neat sipper. I am very happy that I was given the chance to get to know Starward Left-Field in such a lively, cool and convivial way. Going forth, I am sure that it will be a permanent occupant of my whisky shelf!
Starward Left-Field (Single Malt Whisky / Australia / Red wine casks / 40% / EUR 30)
Left-Field Classic Crusta (Whisky, sugar syrup, orange liquor, lemon juice, angostura, sugar)
Left-Field Wine Fashioned (Whisky, red wine syrup, walnut bitter)
Almond and apple soup with mint and honey pesto
Apple and honey chickpea hummus in almond filo parcel
Praline with apple, mint and honey crunch
*** I got the invite, the whisky and the other treats for free from Kirsch Import. Thank you. ***