A night in with Starward – Peated Finish Virtual Tasting

When it comes to wrapping your head around whisky, it’s nice to hear some expert advice as you swivel, sniff and sip — that’s why we ran a virtual whisky tasting with Starward’s Head Blender, Jarrad Huckshold and Blender, Carlie Dyer recently.



The idea of this session was to gather (virtual) whisky fans, line up several Starward whiskies and compare the nuances of each from the (second) best seat in the house after Starward’s very on bar: our whisky fans’ homes. Whiskies we tried included Nova, UnExpeated, Mesquite and our latest launch Peated Finish. Want to re-live the magic? Hit play on the video below, grab a bottle or two to taste and prepare to become an expert. Don’t have a spare hour in the day? No worries — we’ve summarised what was covered (and sipped) right here.

Consider Nova, the perfect introduction to Starward: a single malt pure red wine cask expression whose DNA can be found across all our whiskies. The backbone of Starward’s signature single malt style, Nova is matured exclusively in red wine barrels sourced from places like the Yarra Valley and Barossa. Those barrels are a mix of French oak (which give it a nutmeg-meets-cinnamon characteristic) and American oak (which adds an element of sweetness). These barrels sit in a winery for around 5 to 6 years before landing in our hot little hands to create some magic with — the type of magic that wins you Double Gold at the 2022 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, to be exact.

Give the glass a swirl, sniff and look; you’ll notice its vibrant red ochre colour — on the nose it’s like we took bright flavours of red berries and orchard fruit and coated them in soft oak spice. On the palate, imagine a rich red berry pudding covered in vanilla, caramel and spice. The finish is balanced and long, and as the sweetness fades a delicious flavour lingers. As Blender Carlie so perfectly puts it, “it’s moreish!”.

Nova Single Malt Whisky from Starward Australia paired with hotdogs and cocktails
Starward Nova Single Malt Whisky - the perfect pairing with meatball subs

A nice entrance into peated whisky, especially for those who aren’t familiar with its taste, UnExpeated was our first foray into a peated cask finish. It fuses new world whisky with traditional Islay peated casks, melding our red wine barrel aged Australian single malt whisky, with the peated whisky-drenched casks from Islay, Scotland. It spent close to 9 months in those casks, and according to Head Blender Jarrad the first 6 months of that time were a “bit of a gamble” as the whisky settled down and began to develop into what you taste today. But that’s what Starward is all about: finding barrels, adding whisky to them and seeing what comes out — it’s what makes our whiskies unique. UnExpeated also took home a Double Gold at the 2022 San Francisco World Spirits Competition— so if there’s a bottle of it in your cocktail cabinet, you’ve picked a winner.


Notes of coastal peat and smoky flavours mix with our signature fruit-forward whisky in this sunset-coloured single malt. On the nose you’ll notice tropical fruits, toasted oak and a hint of sweet peat. Ripe red berries, coastal peat smoke, yellow peach and cocoa nibs hit the palate, while oak slowly dries on the palate, with a long peated finish after.

We’re pretty darn excited about this one! Peated Finish is the new kid on the block and the latest release from our Project program. Like UnExpeated, Peated Finish also fuses new world whisky with traditional Islay peated casks. The main difference between the two is that Peated Finish spent more time in barrels (18 months versus 9 months) and a slightly lighter blend was placed inside them. Every few months the Starward team would check in on it and see how it was developing until the timing and taste were just right. More time in those heavily saturated, peated casks (after first maturing in our red wine casks) results in a deeper, smokier finish that pays homage to the barrels’ Scottish provenance — all perfectly balanced with Starward’s quintessential bright tropical fruits.

In the words of Jarrad, you’ll want to “give it a nose” before you sip; try comparing UnExpeated and Peated Finish if you can too. UnExpeated has a bit more peat influence on the palate and ashiness, while Peated Finish is more expressive and tropical. You’ll also notice ripe red fruits, subtle peat smoke, yellow peach and mocha on the palate before it slowly dries from the oak and a long peated finish remains.

Our first Starward alternative malt project using specialty mesquite smoked barley, Mesquite is part of our small batch range (normally limited to online releases or available exclusively at the Starward bar in our (most awarded! distillery of the year). Using mesquite smoked barley gives this whisky a distinguished, flavour forward finish. Fun fact about mesquite wood: it’s used for smoking foods, so you get that characteristic in this small batch whisky.

You’ll notice upfront aromas of orange rind, milk chocolate and distinctive mesquite smoke on the nose, and an abundance of yellow peaches and orange on the front palate before the intensity of the smoke passes through. The finish is dry but is nicely balanced by a subtle sweetness. Some whisky fans who were involved in this virtual tasting also called out notes of grilled pineapple, maple bacon and smoky dried apricots. Tasty!

So, now you know more about these whiskies — including our newly released Peated Finish — why not try your hand at mixing a few cocktails? Peated Finish can add dimension and that little ‘smoky something’ you’ve been looking for in your cocktail repertoire.