What’s The Best Starward Whisky for Beginners?
What’s The Best Starward Whisky for Beginners?
So, you’re curious about whisky? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Here at Starward, we love introducing people to, in our biased opinion, one of the best spirits out there – especially if you’re only just starting out on your journey. We’ve enlisted the help of Starward’s very own Bar Manager, Kyle D'Andrea, to help guide, demystify and answer some common questions aimed at the whisky curious.
Understanding the whisky basics
Before you set off on your whisky-sipping journey, you probably want to know what’s what. You’ve heard words like ‘single malt’, ‘blended’, ‘Scotch’, ‘Irish’ and ‘bourbon’ but what’s the difference and which one should you start with? As a beginner, a good place to start is sampling a few different types from around the world – this will help you get a grasp on the characteristics that you gravitate towards. Scotch whisky is produced across the different whisky regions of Scotland (think Islay, Highlands, Speyside etc) and often exhibits complex flavours ranging from fruity and floral to smoky and peaty. Japanese whisky is generally known for its smoothness, balance and subtle flavours making it a good place to start thanks to its milder taste profile. Irish whisky is traditionally triple distilled, which gives it a smooth finish with notes of honey, vanilla and citrus. Then you’ve got American whisky which includes the likes of bourbon and rye whisky. Bourbon could be considered a popular choice for beginners thanks to its slightly sweet flavour. Bourbon whisky is made from at least 51% corn – and unaged bourbon whisky is usually labelled as corn whisky. Rye whisky is made using a minimum of 51% rye and is often mixed with barley and other grains. Blended whisky can include whisky made from any grains from multiple distilleries. Single malt whisky refers to a type of whisky that’s produced by a single distillery using a single malted grain (most likely barley).
The best Starward whisky for beginners
According to Kyle, a great place to start with Starward is with the one and only Two-Fold – which is a wheat and single malt whisky folded together and matured in Australian red wine barrels. “It’s incredibly approachable and versatile, while also being affordable. It can be enjoyed in so many ways: it’s delicious served neat or over ice, it works well in any kind of light ‘spritzy’ cocktail and makes a great whisky sour,” explains Kyle. “If you’re traditionally a gin drinker (or even if you’re not) add a light tonic to it with a wedge of ruby grapefruit – it’ll change your life,” says Kyle. As the Bar Manager at our Port Melbourne Distillery, Kyle gets to pour, stir and shake the hands and cocktails of many whisky newcomers or people who consider themselves ‘non-whisky’ drinkers. “A Two-Fold & Tonic is the first drink I recommend and I’ll always say, ‘If you don’t like it, you can throw it at me and I’ll get you something else.’ To this day, I’ve still remained dry!” he says with a laugh.
How to enjoy Starward for the first time and tasting tips
Kyle has a pretty simple mantra when asked how to enjoy Starward whisky for the first time: “Drink it how you like it. That answer might seem like a cop-out, however in this case it really rings true! If you’re used to drinking whisky neat then you should try Starward whisky neat first, then start experimenting with mixed drinks and cocktails. Once you have an idea of the backbone flavours of your whisky, you’ll be able to judge which direction you want to take your flavour experience from there,” he explains.
Kyle goes on to suggest that if you’re traversing the whisky cocktail or mixed drink varieties, start with something familiar. “If you usually drink your whisky with ginger ale, I recommend Starward Solera. Solera is matured in Australian Apera casks, which gives the spirit a bit of a spicy characteristic and pairs very well with the spice in the ginger. Or if you usually like an Old Fashioned with bourbon then 100 Proof – which is full of sensational thick vanilla, butterscotch and caramel characteristics – will blow your mind!” he says.
Let’s get technical for a hot second: if you’re trying whisky for the first time neat, you might like to add a few drops of water to it; doing this can release more aromas on the nose and open up more flavours on the palate. Start by giving the whisky a gentle sniff and swirl – your nose can identify an infinite amount of different smells, while your tongue can only detect a fraction. To avoid the burning sensation caused by the taste of alcohol, sniff gently and keep your mouth slightly open. After a few minutes of smelling your whisky, take a sip. Be sure to hold it on your tongue for a few seconds, and then let it spread throughout your entire mouth and breathe out slowly through your nose as you swallow.
A common misconception about whisky to set the record straight on
“That’s an easy one! I’d like to stamp out this idea that whisky has to be old to be any good. Granted, people are becoming more educated and beginning to understand that ‘age is just a number,’ but there’s still a long way to go,” explains Kyle. “There are some incredible older whiskies out there, but there’s also a plethora of amazing young whiskies too. I feel bad for anyone that negates an entire section of a spirits category because of a number they feel is the ‘benchmark’ – they’re missing out!” explains Kyle.
It’s the secret ingredient in Starward whisky (hint: Melbourne’s chaotic weather) that helps accelerate the maturation of our whisky, and Kyle likes to explain the difference between ‘age and maturity’ to newcomers. “A whisky may be quite old, but not be mature. Whereas commonly in Starward’s case, our whisky might be mature and ready to drink, but still be quite young. The most important thing in my opinion is not the age, but whether it’s delicious,” says Kyle.
Ordering a whisky drink as a beginner
Become best friends with the bartender at your local is always a good start. “Head to your local whisky bar and speak to your bartender. Bartenders are experts at guiding you in different directions and helping you learn what kind of flavours you might like and why. You could even visit me at our Port Melbourne distillery and I’ll take you on a flavour journey!” he says. “You could also sign up to a whisky subscription service and let them take you on a different journey each month – they also regularly hold online sessions to discuss the whiskies you’ve purchased with the distillers or blenders that created it. Be careful though, your collection can build up pretty quickly!”
Ways to learn more about whisky
It’s all about heading directly to the source of the good stuff. “The best way to learn about whisky is to see where it’s made and let the team behind it chat through the production process,” says Kyle. “Here at Starward, we have a number of guest experiences available from simple and informative Tasting Sessions to our Distillery Tour and Tasting, all the way through to our Whisky Masterclass & Barrel Tasting where we discuss our story and how we make our award-winning whisky – you can even taste straight from a barrel. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
Ready to explore more whisky and go further for flavour with us? Come along for the ride, we’d love to have you. We’ve got some great Australian made whisky that you might even think about gifting to whisky beginner, or just grab a bottle of whisky for yourself because, hey, you deserve it. If you’d like to start your whisky-sipping journey with a cocktail first, our premix cocktails are tasty and save you time at a party.