Here at Whiskey Network, we are not strangers to Starward whisky. We previously reviewed the Nova Single Malt and the Two-Fold Double Grain, and we even hosted an interview with the founder. Obviously, it was great news when we found that we would be getting a sample of the Solera Single Malt. As can be seen in the difference in price between the Solera and Starward's other offerings, the Solera can be considered a more premium whisky. There is also some evidence of this, as the Solera is a Gold Medal Winner at the World Whiskies Awards three of the past four years.
What really makes the Solera different? Like the Nova it is an Australian Single Malt, but the proof is a touch higher at 43% ABV. They continue to use brewers' yeast to keep the fruity profile consistent within their offerings. The Solera is named after the style of aging for this whisky, they use a solera system where portions of various barrels of different ages are included in the final batch. In the Starward case, the combination of the spirits is completed in a separate marrying tun. Granted, this is a bit of a simplification, but Starward notes that "there's still a touch of our first ever cask in every bottle made today."
Another significant difference is the cask aging. The Solera whisky is aged in Australian Apera casks. Apera is an Australian fortified wine similar to sherry. The casks that are used have typically held spirit over decades which we can greatly affect the flavor profile of the whisky. While the Nova casks are "as wet as possible", the Solera casks are often recoopered, shaved, and charred before filling with the whisky. This is not entirely rare, but it is a big change from the Nova, in addition to the switch from a red wine to a fortified wine aging.
Given all of this, my hopes were high and I was anxious to see what Starward achieved with the Solera.
No Age Statement (some information has it as over 3 years old)
Aged and Bottled by Starward Distillery, Melbourne, Australia
100% Australian Malted Barley
"Elementally matured" in Australian Apera casks from McWilliams Winery, right on the border between Victoria and New South Wales
Bottled at 43% ABV (86 proof)
Apples and pears come to the fore immediately. Vanilla and white grapes provide a pleasant background. There is a fullness to the aroma that really completes the experience. After some time in the glass, slightly astringent oak makes an appearance.
Fruity and rich. Vanilla and caramel lead the show with the apples and pears staying more in the background. Creamy milk chocolate and some oak provide a wonderful foundation.
Vanilla and caramel jump forward, but ripe red apples join the party quickly. Milk chocolate and oak complete this very nice medium length finish.
Recommendation: Must try!
The Solera is definitely a good whisky. While there are some youthful notes, it just has more heft and maturity that the Nova and Two-Fold do not. While it is aged in a fortified wine cask, I would not compare this to a sherry-bomb Scotch. It has some similarities but the fruit notes go in a different direction. One problem with this whisky is scarcity, it will not be easy to find. However, this is the whisky that shows what Starward is capable of, and you should seek it out if you can. One hope I do have is that we get releases of Solera that are older, maybe in the 6-year range,, as that would really complete this single malt. Another note I had, with the orchard fruits and chocolate notes, this would be killer at cask strength.