New single malt aged in red wine barrels leads push for Australian whisky in UK

Starward Left-Field Australian whisky

Australian whisky is set to elbow its way into British homes and bars with the launch of a new single malt specifically created to appeal to the European palate.

Starward in Melbourne has added Left-Field to its core range in the UK via a new listing at Waitrose this month. Keeping to the distillery’s distinctive method of maturation in red wine barrels, it is described as smooth and flavoursome in style.

Limited stocks mean that Australian whiskies have made little impact on the UK market but Starward hopes Left-Field will help create “a new category of whisky” internationally and put Australian whisky into every “self-respecting bar in the world alongside great scotch, American, Irish and Japanese whiskies”.

Starward founder David Vitale said: “We believe we have an opportunity to elbow out some space and create an alternative to the great whiskies from around the world with an Australian whisky matured in Australian wine barrels.”

Left-Field has been aged 100% in French oak casks that previously held red wine to provide a rich and spicy mouthfeel, enhancing the complex oak characteristics while maintaining the delicate flavours of the Australian wine. It also uses some French charred oak wine barrels to add density and further complexity.

Both the fresh and charred barrels are sourced from two of Australia’s leading wine regions, the Barossa Valley and the Yarra Valley, and held wines including shiraz, cabernet and pinot noir. To retain the distinctive wine flavours, most of the barrels are filled while still wet with wine. It is bottled at 40% ABV.

The whisky can be enjoyed neat or with ice but Starward is also promoting it for mixing with tonic over ice, or with soda for a highball, and in cocktails such as a Spritz and a twist on a New York Sour (see below).

Vitale said: “We felt it was important for us to create a flavourful but easy-drinking and approachable whisky that talks to the place it is made, like very few whiskies can.

“With our red wine barrel-ageing, our whiskies offer something different to most others. This juicy approachability from our red wine barrels means our whiskies are perfect for cocktails and mixing.”

He added that the mix of Left-Field with tonic was “refreshing and bright and brings out the smooth, full flavour of our whisky”.

It is available in 70cl bottles exclusively in the UK and the rest of Europe, with a recommended price in retail of £35.

After launching in 2013, Starward has become Australia’s fastest-growing whisky brand with a range of award-winning expressions include Wine Cask, Tawny and Solera.

Left-Field tasting notes from Starward
Colour: Bright gold with a slight red hue
Nose: Soft aromatics of tropical fruits, red apple skin, fresh red berries and warming vanilla spice
Palate: Estery and bright tropical fruit character with a rich mouthfeel and lightly toasted oak
Finish: Delicate finish with a soft tannic structure

New World Sour
50ml Starward Left-Field
20ml Lemon juice
20ml Sugar syrup
20ml Egg white
15ml Australian red wine
Dry shake all the ingredients except for the red wine and then add ice and shake again. Serve in a rocks glass over ice and gently float the red wine on top.

Starward Spritz
30ml Starward Left-Field
30ml Rose vermouth
90ml Grapefruit soda
Garnish: Mint sprig and grapefruit wedge
Build all ingredients over ice in a large wine glass and garnish with the mint and grapefruit.

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