The feeling of excitement here at Starward is palpable. And it’s no wonder because our most anticipated release yet has just been unveiled. Meet Starward Bourbon Cask #2, a
52% single malt, Australian whisky fully matured in bourbon barrels for five 'Melbourne years'. Now, we know what you’re thinking: isn’t every Starward release cause for excitement? Absolutely. But, there’s something particularly special about this one. So special, in fact, our founder Dave Vitale will explain the story behind Bourbon Cask #2 and its role in Starward’s unwavering mission to go further for flavour. We’ll hear from Dave shortly, before we do here’s everything you need to know about the latest addition to the Starward range.

An ‘ode to what could have been’

It’s no secret here at Starward that wine barrels play a huge part in the maturation of our whisky, however, our latest limited-edition release was actually matured in bourbon barrels instead. This method is nothing new, it’s been tried and tested for years. That’s why when Dave first began crafting whisky, he thought about importing bourbon barrels to make a beautiful, proven high-quality whisky, which would have been perfect to showcase the new make spirit we work so hard to craft. But, Dave didn’t want to do it by the book. We like to think of Bourbon Cask #2 as the Starward whisky that ‘could’ve been’ if Dave had continued down the path of maturing whisky in bourbon barrels instead of wine barrels. Think of it as our ‘sliding doors’ moment that changed Starward’s trajectory forever. 

The gamble

Just over fifteen years ago, Dave faced a fork in the road: mature Starward whisky in bourbon barrels like the rest of the world or forge the road less travelled and (quite literally) pour all of the spirit into Australian red wine barrels. Ageing whisky in freshly-emptied wine barrels – what could go wrong? Well, anything and everything, actually. It might not mature correctly; the wine could negatively interact with the neutral spirit; the oak could be the wrong flavour profile. Nobody really knew for certain. But today, Dave’s pursuit of originality and crafting a whisky that reflected Australia in every sip; from the grain to the barrels sourced within a day’s drive from our distillery, well and truly paid off. Fast forward to 2024 and we're not only famous for our red wine barrel maturation but we take home awards for it too (13 Double Gold Medals, 8 Platinum Medals and 13 Gold Medals at the 2024 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, to be exact). It's all we've ever known and we wouldn't have it any other way.

A word from David on barrel variation

“Hi, Distilled Journal readers, Dave here! I’m the founder of Starward and want to share more about our latest limited-edition release, Starward Bourbon Cask #2. This whisky symbolises the path that Starward could have taken but didn’t. And it’s a cracker of a whisky… just think… this is the baseline from which we wanted to build from. Of course, we’ve delivered consistently in spades with our core expressions aged in red wine barrels, but it all starts with the foundation of great grains, fermentation and distillation, and a restlessness to do better. This whisky is a tribute to everyone who believed in us and our vision to look beyond the norm and explore possibilities.

Back to the barrels for a minute, at Starward we use red wine barrels to mature almost all of our core range whiskies. Red wine barrels vary a lot, so much so that two whiskies matured in similar red wine barrels can taste completely different, even if they come from the same winery. The reason for this comes down to things like they’re charred, fresh, French Oak, American Oak or the overall quality of the wood.

Bourbon barrels, on the other hand, tend to be more consistent, and this is because by law they must be American Oak and fresh. Because bourbon casks tend to be more neutral, makers of this spirit may do things like stacking their bourbon barrels high to the ceiling to change how the spirit is matured and ultimately tastes. So, many years ago, when I poured liquid into red wine barrels, I had no idea what would come of it because there’s so much variation and unpredictability. But that's the beauty of it, and I’m grateful it led to something pretty special.”

A spirit that shines

We like to think of Bourbon Cask #2 as the inverse to our original red wine barrel maturation style.
The distillers fresh-filled bourbon casks with our tropical and fruit-forward new make spirit, and after five ‘Melbourne years’ (which is a nod to the city’s somewhat chaotic weather), this delicate single malt whisky is ready to sip. Bourbon barrels are the perfect neutral canvas for our signature new make spirit and in the words of our blenders, ‘there’s nothing to hide behind with bourbon barrels’ so you better believe our new make spirit shines bright. All of the tropical fruit esters captured in our fermentation process are prevalent in each delicious sip. On the nose, you’ll pick up aromatic grilled pineapple and vanilla. Take a sip, and your tastebuds will be greeted with lemon curd, dried banana and succulent honey. The finish is long, with characteristics of buttered toast and toasted oak. Outrageously delicious, if you ask us.

Ready to sip Bourbon Cask #2 for yourself? Enter the ballot for your chance to purchase. And given we’re celebrating World Whisky Day 2024, we couldn’t think of a better way to commemorate it. 

Cheers to what could’ve been!