Supplying used casks to brewers is a valuable marketing tool for Starward Whisky, according to founder David Vitale, who has confirmed he still has brewing ambitions of his own.
Vitale originally planned to open a craft brewery in Tasmania, he told Brews News in a recent interview to mark Starward’s tenth anniversary of operations.
“There is a bit of an itch that maybe one day I’ll scratch. But not for awhile, given my hands are pretty full with the distillery,” he said.
“But, boy, it’s a cluttered market. The great thing about Starward at the moment is that there aren’t many Australian whiskies that are sitting on the shelves at retailers for under $100. In fact I think we’re it, so that’s pretty exciting.”
Vitale said he is particularly passionate about barrel-aged and sour beers, which given his background, he does not see as prohibitively expensive or time consuming beers to make.
“If you’re coming from the world of whisky, I guess it seems a whole lot easier than it would otherwise,” he said.
“Time’s a relative thing. Whereas brewers are thinking, ‘wow, I have to mature that for six months with a note of exasperation’, I’m saying, ‘wow, I can mature that for six months with a note of excitement’!”
Close ties with brewers
In the meantime Starward will continue supplying its used whisky casks to breweries such as Melbourne’s Boatrocker, which relies on them for its celebrated Ramjet Imperial Stout.
“A craft beer drinker is a Starward drinker that doesn’t know it yet. The more we partner with breweries, the more opportunity we have to celebrate that relationship,” Vitale said.
“Then, when people are ready to go on that whisky journey, we’re front of mind. They’ve already had some Starward but they just don’t know it yet.”
Vitale said Starward also has close ties with the brewing community through its policy of recruiting distillers from the craft beer sector.
“That was definitely by design. For me early on, it was like, ‘I’m not going to find a kilt-wearing Scotsman to come and make my whisky, and I don’t want them to’,” he said.
“I want a brewer to be inspired by the vision of an iconic Australian whisky and explore what whisky can be when you take a brewing mindset to it.”
Tenth anniversary whisky
Starward has marked its first decade with the release of a Tenth Anniversary Bottling, which Vitale likens to an anthology of its first ten years.
“Every single type of barrel that we have at the distillery, in terms of size and style, is represented in the liquid, so it’s a great representation of time and wood policy that we’ve invested in at the distillery.”
This marriage of eight barrel types has resulted in a big, sweet whisky with complex dried fruit components.
Additional stock recently became available through Vintage Cellars.