World By Anne-Sophie Bigot / March 14, 2016 Distill Ventures, part of the Diageo group, said recently it was investing an unspecified sum in Melbourne, Australia-based STARWARD Whisky. This marks the second whisky investment for Distill, which was set up to back early-stage brands and help them grow. (more on bbc.com) To learn more about STARWARD David Vitale, Starward founder, kindly took the time to answer my questions recently. The team behind Starward Whisky (image via The Whisky Lady) First of all, could you please tell us more about the New World Distillery, its location, team, and spirits currently being produced? New World Whisky Distillery is an innovative urban distillery positioned in a vintage airport hangar 20 minutes from Melbourne’s CBD. The hangar traps the heat and thus harnesses the four seasons in one day we get in this city. The spirit in our barrels expands and contracts constantly, drawing more flavour from our Australian red wine barrels. We produce two key expressions; the Apera and the Wine Cask. These are both single malt whiskies and start with the same new make spirit, made on site with local barley. The Apera was our first whisky and utilizes ex-Apera casks (Australian sherry). Please find a flavour chart and tasting notes on the Apera here. The Wine Cask, which is increasingly in demand, is matured for a minimum of two and a half years in Australian wine casks. These are predominantly South Australian red wine casks. Both key expressions are bold and vibrant, yet balanced and approachable. Our team is amazing. There’s a bit of an insight into everyone’s role and background here. One of the things that is most exciting about everyone who works here is their ability to innovate and challenge the status quo both in traditional whisky making terms but also in our young distillery. Nothing is sacred to consideration as to how we can continually improve everything we do. We also have a “Projects” range, which is our way of exploring new frontiers in the world of spirits. Each of our distillers starts with an unanswered questions and has the autonomy to chart a course towards the answer. Small runs go out to independent retailers and select bars around Australia. Some are only available at our cellar door. What would you say makes STARWARD whisky stand out from the crowd? In two simple words: climate and barrels. Our whisky uses 100% Australian wine barrels for maturation. These barrels are some of the oldest and finest barrels in Australia and the whisky is better for having spent time in them. These wine barrels (either fortified or table wine) impart a distinctive flavour and texture which makes STARWARD unique. Melbourne is famous for – amongst other things – our “four seasons in a day”. This has a positive impact on our maturation and allows us to come to market with a three year old whisky that stands proud alongside Scotch and American whiskies three to four times our age. Australian whisky is getting more and more popular amongst whisky enthusiasts. How would you explain this trend, and how would you describe the category? This is a really interesting question. The description of Australian whisky would be “diverse” – but all great quality. The interest I think is born of this diversity and commitment to quality. We have distilleries in every state and capital city of Australia making amazing liquid, and I think whisky enthusiasts certainly have an open mind to trying something new. My goal is to get Australian whisky out of the “special occasion” cabinet and into the “sharing” cabinet, with a consistent, distinctive tasting whisky that celebrates our brewing and winemaking history. Distill Ventures (part of the DIAGEO group) recently declared it was investing in STARWARD whisky: how are you planning to use the funds, any innovating experiments, projects you could tell us about? The dream has always been to create a distinctively Australian whisky we can take to the world with pride. With these recent investments, we can make that happen. Our distillery will remain independent as we increase production of STARWARD and begin to establish this presence internationally. The team are thrilled to keep doing what they do best – innovating in whisky production and introducing more people to the product. David Gates from Diageo said: “Australian whisky has rightly been gaining increasing global recognition recently and STARWARD has developed a uniquely positioned whisky to capture this opportunity.” What exactly is this unique positioning? How would you describe your target consumers? Australian whisky has traditionally been offered as a single cask or in very small batch offerings. We’ve met the market with a more consistent offering at a competitive price point. We think that both whisky enthusiasts as well as a new wave of non-conventional whisky drinkers will be attracted to our modern thinking and approach. Have you already secured deals for European distribution? What are your key export markets? How has been the response so far to Starward outside of Australia? Everywhere we have taken our whisky so far has given us overwhelmingly positive feedback. We’re currently mapping out where we go next. Our sights are set on South East Asia and the U.S. How do you see the future for STARWARD whisky and the New World Distillery? A crazy dream you’d like to achieve? STARWARD has always been an ambitious undertaking. We see an extremely bright future. We plan to continue to do what we are doing now, but on a grander scale. My dream, is to do to whisky what Australian wine has done to wine, and be a credible alternative to traditional whiskies from around the world.