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Taste Test: This Aussie Whisky Aged in Ginger Beer Casks Is a Surprisingly Delicious Single Malt

The distillery has allocated bottles of this very limited release just for our readers.

Starward Ginger Beer Cask Starward

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Australian whisky is starting to get the recognition it deserves, thanks to some really excellent single malts from distilleries like Melbourne’s Starward. The latest release might sound strange on paper, but this single malt finished in ginger beer casks is surprisingly tasty.

Starward Ginger Beer Cask #7 is, as you can likely discern, the seventh iteration of this whisky. But it’s the first to get U.S. distribution—albeit, via a ballot system at the moment. The whisky is part of the Starward Innovative Projects Program, an experimental whisky initiative spearheaded by head of distilling Sam Slaney. According to the brand Aussies have been fans of this ginger cask-finished whisky for years now, and the expectation is that Americans will like it just as much.

The whisky is a blend of the distillery’s Nova and Solera expressions—Nova is the core single malt aged in lightly charred red wine barrels from the Yarra and Barossa Valley; Solera is aged using the solera method (a little bit of older whisky is blended with younger whisky) in Apera barrels, an Australian fortified wine. The final step is to mature the blend in ginger beer casks for a full year. “Since our first Ginger Beer Cask bottling in 2014, our recipe has evolved as we continue to experiment to make a new expression,” Starward founder David Vitale told Robb Report. “The ginger beer recipe is a closely guarded secret, but we can confirm that this year it is loaded with ginger and citrus peel.” It was aged in American oak wine barrels, and after dumping the ginger beer is used in Starward’s canned cocktails which are available only in Australia.

A year is a lot of time to soak up flavor, really more of a secondary maturation than a finish although these days the terms are interchangeable. The resulting whisky has a nice orange-gold color, a bit different from the redder hue of other Starward releases. The nose has a subtle hint of fresh ginger, a precursor of what’s to come. On the palate, there’s a burst of spice and ginger candy, along with orange, hot mulled cider, caramel, vanilla, and some rum raisin ice cream. On the finish, there’s a pleasant warmth of dissolving Red Hots on the back of your throat. Overall, this is a really interesting and unique whisky that should definitely be used in a cocktail as well served as a neat pour.

Starward isn’t the only Aussie whisky getting press these days. There are now about 100 distilleries operating in the country, but the selection that’s available here is still small. We’ve covered Morris Single Malt before, and you can find some high-priced bottles from Tasmanian distillery Sullivans Cove on liquor store shelves. Starward, which is backed by Diageo’s accelerator program Distill Ventures, is the easiest whisky to find, but given the quality this is no fluke.

As mentioned above, because the Ginger Beer Cask #7 is such a limited release, Starward is using a lottery system to allocate bottles currently. The distillery is setting aside 10 bottles just for Robb Report readers if you use this link to sign up for a ballot. You can sign up to enter until May 16 with winners select on May 17. And if you miss out on that, you can purchase the core lineup from websites like ReserveBar.

Score: 88

  • 100: Worth trading your first born for
  • 95 – 99 In the Pantheon: A trophy for the cabinet
  • 90 – 94 Great: An excited nod from friends when you pour them a dram 
  • 85 – 89 Very Good: Delicious enough to buy, but not quite special enough to chase on the secondary market
  • 80 – 84 Good: More of your everyday drinker, solid and reliable
  • Below 80 It’s alright: Honestly, we probably won’t waste your time and ours with this

Every week Jonah Flicker tastes the most buzzworthy and interesting whiskeys in the world. Check back each Friday for his latest review.

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