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Starward Australian Single Malt Finished In Lagavulin Barrels




Whisky Review: Starward Australian Single Malt Finished In Lagavulin Barrels

Tasting Notes:

An Australian red wine barrel-aged Australian single malt finished in ex-Lagavulin peated Scotch casks. It is bottled at 48% ABV and priced at $130.
There’s a nice reddish-amber color in the glass, carrying with it strong viscosity and thick legs.
The dual subtle influences of red wine cask and Islay peat cask are noted in the nose, showcasing aromatics of iodine, dry cherries, baked bread, and oak alongside vegetal and a hint of marshmallows.
The opening taste of this whisky puts a smile on the mouth, reflecting a carefully crafted whisky blending influences from different parts of the globe. Rich candied cherry notes dance at the front of the tongue, supported by a wisp of smoke. As this shifts around, it draws in hints of oak, banana, plums, a touch of cloves, and that red strawberry-flavored lollipop you loved as a kid.
The finish on this is dynamic, with the peat of the Lagavulin casks jumping out most here, giving a nice, but not overpowering, smoky end that lingers.
Yes, may we please have another? This whisky is really quite spectacular, dialed in in all the right ways. Get a bottle or three if you can.
Starward Australian Single Malt Finished In Lagavulin Barrels review
We review Starward Australian Single Malt Finished In Lagavulin Barrels, an Australian red wine barrel aged Australian single malt finished in ex-Lagavulin peated Scotch casks. (image via Starward)

Editor’s Note: We received a review sample of this whiskey from the brand. However, in accordance with our editorial policies, this has not influenced the outcome of our review in any way.

Starward Australian Whisky has risen from the ranks of whisky from this island nation to become one of the best-known outside of its native land. Crafting spirits from local ingredients and maturing them in barrels from the Australian wine industry has helped this distillery to gain a high degree of fame and recognition globally, including being named ‘Most Awarded Distillery of The Year’ at the 2022 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, and most recently as one of The World’s Most Admired Whiskies by Drinks International (Drinks International, World’s Most Admired Whiskies, 2023).

Starward was founded some 15 years ago by one David Vitale and is headquartered in Melbourne, Australia. Besides resting its whiskies in the Australian red wine barrels and sourcing grains from within a day’s drive of the distillery, Vitale and his team also give credit to Melbourne’s “notorious four seasons in one day” as influencing via a constant temperature change how the whisky barrels contract and expand at a much faster rate, thereby having the whisky within take on a higher amount of flavors from the barrel wood.

What’s in the bottle

The whisky being reviewed here, Starward Australian Single Malt Finished In Lagavulin Barrels, is an experimentation in how additional aging in pretty heavily peated barrels can influence Starward’s normally wine cask forward expressions. To this end, the Starward team, led by Starward Production Director Sam Slaney, traveled to Islay’s Lagavulin distillery in Scotland to observe “the influence of climate on maturation, noting how aging in two very opposing environments impart distinct flavor finishes, and somehow work together in perfect harmony.”

What this turned into, more practically speaking, was the sourcing of ex-Lagavulin peated whisky barrels for use in a special project. Starward’s signature red wine barrel matured Single Malt Australian whisky, already aged three years, was finished for 18 months in the Scotch barrels before being bottled at 48% ABV.

“My earliest inspiration for Starward was to create a deliciously distinctive whisky,” said Vitale at the time of this whisky’s release, “and while we certainly hit that brief with our red wine barrel matured whisky, what whisky better epitomizes distinctively delicious than Lagavulin? Sourcing these barrels to create this exciting expression gives us a magical moment to celebrate the very best of Australian curiosity and Scottish tradition. I’ve always been inspired by Islay; so much so that we named our daughters Islay.”

Starward Australian Single Malt Finished In Lagavulin Barrels is a limited-release offering priced at $130.

Nino Kilgore-Marchetti

Nino Kilgore-Marchetti is the former founder of The Whiskey Wash, an award-winning whiskey lifestyle website dedicated to informing and entertaining consumers about whisk(e)y globally. As a whisk(e)y journalist, expert, and judge, he has written extensively about the subject, been interviewed in various media outlets, and provided tasting input on many whiskeys at competitions.

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