While New World Distillery may not be a very traditional or romantic one, being based in a vast airport hanger in Essendon, Melbourne, and using modern equipment and techniques. But there's no denying they're producing a great value & affordable Australian single malt. Their Starward brand is one of the most affordable on the market, actually, and is unquestionably of better quality than it's nearest domestic competition.
I've covered a few details about Starward / New World Distillery whisky here, after a presentation/tasting with proprietor David Vitale at Whisky Live this year. But I didn't go into detail about another aspect of this distillery, which is quite exciting, and a little mysterious: New World Projects. The concept behind this brand is quite innovative as well, the distillery's production team is basically allowed to experiment with some whisky, and if the project is deemed successful, it goes to market as a single cask bottling.
Some very different whiskies have carried the 'Projects' label over the last few years, including the mysterious 'Project X', which is a 3 year old colour-less malt whisky. But the project that caught my attention was the Ginger Beer Cask release. Basically, the distillery brewed a barrel-fermented alcoholic ginger beer, in a virgin oak cask. And once said cask had been emptied, it was filled with 3 year old Starward whisky, taken straight from the distillery's Solera vat (so some of the contents could be significantly older) at 50% alcohol. After a 3 month finishing in the ginger beer cask, it was bottled at 47.7%.
The sample I'm reviewing is from the second batch released, although both used the same production techniques and were bottled at very nearly the same strength. Unfortunately both are also totally sold out, thanks to small batch sizes, and very reasonable pricing at the time of release. Sorry!
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New World Projects Ginger Beer Cask, NAS, 47.7%. Melbourne, Australia.
Matured for minimum 3 years (Solera) in Apera (Australian sherry) casks, then finished for 3 months in ex. alcoholic ginger-beer cask. Non-chill filtered. Sample reviewed is from batch 2.
Nose: Caramelised bananas, warm spices (cinnamon, mild clove, nutmeg), rich caramel sauce. Stone fruit & toasted mild nuts - maybe pine-nuts. With more time, toffee apples and some soft malt.
Texture: Quite light, but with plenty of spice (as in flavour, not alcohol heat).
Taste: There's the ginger! A mix of crystallised (sugared) and dried natural ginger. With that proper ginger warmth/heat as well, it's quite dominant actually. More baking spices, wooded white wine and the standard Starward sweet bananas in the background. And that wooded wine is getting more prominent with time.
Finish: Short-medium, and the ginger warmth and spices are still there! And when it does fade, it takes basically everything else with it. Slight hint of an apple orchard in summer, right at the end.
Score: 3 out of 5.
Notes: That ginger beer must have been brilliant! The cask has certainly had a big influence on this one, and it's very enjoyable, but I'm not loving that white wine note I'm getting on the palate. Similar to an overly-wooded Chardonnay perhaps, which isn't really my thing. Love the ginger & spices though, it's weird, but it works. In fact I think this would make for a very enjoyable summer's day dram. Or dare I say it, to add a bit more punch to a ginger beer over ice! It's hot in Australia at the moment though, so that could just be the weather talking!
I've been impressed with everything I've tasted from Starward / New World Distillery so far, they're doing great work at very reasonable prices, and are putting quality Australian whisky within the reach of the more budget-conscious consumer. Which is exactly what needs to happen for Aussie whisky's domestic success to improve, in my opinion. Long may it continue
But who knows what this distillery will try next! Another weird (or weirder) cask-finished release, perhaps? Or more experimentation and messing with people's expectations? Regardless, I'll be keeping an eye out for it, and I suggest you do too!
P.S. A quick teaser for next weeks' review, as I think it's going to be one to remember. I'll give you a hint: I'm turning 31 next week, but this whisky is a year older. And it's from Islay. Enough said! I Can't wait...