Mark Twain once said: "Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whisky is barely enough." This seems to be true of Starward Whisky who, after six years distilling out of a former aeroplane maintenance hangar in Essendon Fields, have packed up shop and moved to a warehouse in Port Melbourne. Their new home — which is close to four times the size of their previous distillery — has allowed founder David Vitale and his New World Distillery to bring in new equipment from Europe and amp up the production of his award-winning amber spirit.
Working with Australian barley, old wine barrels and Melbourne's four-seasons-in-one-day climate has paid off for the passionate team of distillers. Last year they received the Best Craft Distiller Whisky prize and Double Gold medal at the San Francisco Global Spirits Competition. Considering that a few short decades ago Australian whisky was basically unheard of, this is a pretty remarkable turnaround.
The venue is a working distillery and is only open on the weekends to the general public. With a comfy tasting room and large open bar, it's little wonder that crowds of weekend whisky lovers have already begun pouring in. The bar, which, due to its colossal size could have felt quite cavernous and impersonal, has been designed with lots care to make the space approachable and friendly. A large indoor tree takes pride of place, while raw and polished timber, shiny bronze distilling equipment and an impressive bottle display behind the bar bring the space to life. Try some Starward, neat, or get the bartender to whip up a whisky cocktail with it. They also do cheese and charcuterie boards, and there is even space for food trucks should the right event come up.
Ever wondered how whisky is made and why it tastes so damn good? Public tours of the distillery are held at 7pm on Fridays and 2pm over weekends. The tour is designed for both whisky enthusiasts and beginners alike — over the course of an hour, the distillers walk small groups through their production methods including mashing in, fermentation, distillation and ageing their special single malt spirit. Tours can be booked online for a cheeky $10 per person.