Interview: David Vitale | Founder | Starward Whisky

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Who Dares Wins

Over the last 20 years, Australia has emerged as a maker of some of the world’s best single malt whisky. Tasmanian distillers have been at the forefront of the Australian industry however a Melbourne based distiller, STARWARD, has recently emerged as a leading producer of award-winning whisky. We asked STARWARD’S founder David Vitale about his vision and recipe for success in a mature global market.

What was the vision that drove you to start up your own whisky distillery?

I founded STARWARD in 2009 with a simple vision, to make an Australian whisky we could offer the world with pride. Something accessible and unique to our region. Our ambition is to do to whisky what Australian Wine has done to that category internationally. A modern, disruptive interpretation on a classic, that speaks to the place it’s made.

You have said that “all good whisky starts as a good beer”. How did this view shape your thinking and lead you to create such a great product in such a relatively short space of time?

I sought out experts in the field of craft brewing and other diverse backgrounds. STARWARD’s young yet complex single malt is now made in Melbourne by a dynamic group of leading Australian beer brewers and ex-winemakers.

You also credit winemakers with your success.

Team members with a winemaking background have been instrumental in fostering relationships with prominent Australian wineries. These key partnerships ensure all spirit is matured in premium wine barrels, hand-picked from suppliers in surrounding wine regions, such as the Barossa Valley and Northern Victoria.

The business started in an ex-airport hangar in Essendon Fields. Last month it moved to premises in Port Melbourne. These are not typical surroundings one thinks of when they think of a world-class whisky distillery. How much character does Melbourne bring to your product?

DV: Melbourne is such an important part of our whisky’s DNA. Melbournians have a habit of taking a tradition from another place, reinventing it and making it our own – a fusion of old and new. Just look at our coffee culture and our bar and food scene. I’d like to think that Melbourne has influenced our approach of making and packaging a single malt whisky in a modern way. The other thing is our weather. Melbourne’s four seasons in a day make our barrels the hardest working barrels in the world. We couldn’t make this whisky anywhere else.

Your whisky has won several major awards this year. Tell us about that.

We are so proud of our achievements on the international stage. I believe these awards are a result of our dedication to using quality Australian ingredients, particularly Australian wine barrels, to bring to market a distinctively Australian whisky for everyone.

Where to from here?

We have our sights on being on the back bars of great drinking places around the world.

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