Fans of world whisky should be excited that a new option has recently made its way to our shores: Starward Nova, a single malt that hails from Australia.
Here’s what we know about it:
Starward is an Australian whisky completely made in Melbourne, and what sets it apart from other world whiskies is that it is completely matured in un-charred, Australian red wine barrels.
The first whisky from Starward that will be available in the US is called Starward Nova, which is a single malt whisky aged in Australian red wine barrels for 3 Melbourne years – a term that is reflective of Melbourne’s four seasons in a day climate. (The label says two years. -Ed.)
The barrels are from local wineries producing Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir, and they experience minimal intervention and are wet-filled to maximize the flavor of the wine permeated into the oak. Its flavor profile means this is a whisky intended to be enjoyed with food.
In sampling Starward Nova, it’s immediately a curious experience. The nose is slightly unexpected, a malty, grain-heavy character cut with gentle notes of honey and golden syrup. A slight herbal edge — thyme, I think — is evident here, too. On the whole, however, the aroma reminds more more of an Irish single malt than anything else.
The palate diverges to some degree, starting with a slightly gummy texture — something that’s common (though not ubiquitous) in red wine-finished or fully-aged whiskies. Notes of nougat, almonds, and a doughy pretzel character inform the bulk of the flavor profile. There’s minimal fruit here, oddly, with a tannic, old wine character lending the whisky a surprising austerity. The granary character becomes quite heavy over time, ultimately reminding me of a hearty rye bread as the finish develops.
Interesting and unusual? Absolutely — but I’d be much more inclined to gravitate to this whisky if it was a bit less brooding.
Review updated to clarify it is fully matured in red wine casks, not finished.