Time Out (Melbourne) - - Made in Melbourne -

What does it take to cre­ate a suc­cess­ful craft whisky la­bel in Mel­bourne? We ask David Vi­tale, founder of an in­ner-city whisky dis­tillery

MORE AND MORE Aus­tralian spir­its are pop­ping up in bars and bot­tle shops. Vic­to­rian brands like Starward Whisky and Four Pil­lars Gin are mak­ing hy­per-lo­cal tip­ples cool, and they’re catch­ing over­seas at­ten­tion. For a whisky brand that’s putting Aus­tralia’s craft whisky scene on the map, Starward Whisky’s Port Mel­bourne dis­tillery – lo­cated 15 min­utes away from the CBD – is not as showy as you’d ex­pect. The ex­te­rior looks like any of the neigh­bour­ing in­dus­trial ware­houses, and it’s not un­til you go in­side that you’ll see a tim­ber bar lined with Starward bot­tles and the brass dis­tillers in the back­ground. This is where all Starward’s whiskies are made, from dis­till­ing to la­belling. Whisky mak­ing is a craft that nor­mally takes pa­tience, but Starward founder David Vi­tale is lucky that mak­ing whisky in Mel­bourne takes a frac­tion of the time it takes to make whisky in the Scot­tish Isles or Ire­land, where it can take ten years for a bot­tle to be ready to drink. “We say that ours are the hard­est work­ing bar­rels in the world,” Vi­tale says. “The four-sea­sons-in-a-day cli­mate that we have in Mel­bourne means that our whiskies don’t need as much time to ma­ture, com­pared to the whiskies that come out of Scot­land. It’s all about the flavour for us at the end of the day.” Ev­ery day around 2,500 bot­tles’ worth of whisky are pro­duced. Aus­tralian bar­ley is soaked, mashed, fer­mented and dis­tilled. Af­ter that, it takes just three years of age­ing in bar­rels be­fore it’s ready to be bot­tled and sold. The Starward Wine Cask and Sol­era sin­gle malts, the la­bel’s pop­u­lar core range, are recog­nis­able for their rich am­ber colour. The Wine Cask whisky has notes of red ber­ries and raisins from be­ing ma­tured in red wine bar­rels, while the Sol­era’s smooth qual­i­ties are due to the age­ing process in Aus­tralian Apera sherry bar­rels. Vi­tale, who started Starward in 2004, adds that Mel­bourne’s restau­rant and bar scene has been vi­tal to get­ting the word on lo­cal spir­its out to the av­er­age drinker. “We’ve got lots of great bar­tenders who are happy to try us out. As long as the prod­ucts check out, we’ve got con­verted fans who are happy to serve Starward to their cus­tomers. It also speaks to Mel­bourne’s con­sumers, who are happy to try dif­fer­ent things, like pair­ing whisky with food. The over­all ef­fect is that whisky has be­come more ac­ces­si­ble.” While Vi­tale has grand plans to take Starward to the UK and the USA, he plans to keep ev­ery as­pect of the the pro­duc­tion as lo­cal as pos­si­ble. The bar­ley used to make the whisky comes from Vic­to­ria and South Aus­tralia, and the bar­rels for the Wine Cask whisky come from Yarra Val­ley winer­ies. Vi­tale says the one thing as­pir­ing dis­tillers need to launch a suc­cess­ful prod­uct is: “Be­lief. You’ve gotta be­lieve in what you’re do­ing, be­cause if you’re doubt­ing what you do, it just makes it that much harder for other peo­ple to buy into your idea.”

“Our whiskies need less time to ma­ture”

What I wish I knew from the start: “It will cost you more than you think. When you start your busi­ness, plan out your bud­get and add a con­tin­gency, then dou­ble it.” De­lima Shanti às­tar­ward Dis­tillery, 50 Ber­tie St, Port Mel­bourne 3027. 03 9005 4420. Fri, Sat noon-10pm; Sun noon-8pm.

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