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Taste Test - Starward Distillery’s Fortis Whisky

Behind the broad windows of its magnificent distillery and bar in Port Melbourne, Starward is crafting some incredible whisky. Here’s what we thought of their high-proof single malt Fortis.

About Starward

Founder-distiller of Starward, David Vitale launched back in 2009 from an old aircraft hanger in Essenden Fields.

Since then, as well as a move to beautiful new premises closer to the city in Port Melbourne, Vitale has built Starward into one of—if not the most productive and influential whisky distilleries in Australia.

Their startling Two Fold whisky, which uses a blend of malted barley and wheat, has been a major disruptor as well as creating probably the most affordable yet extremely high-quality Aussie craft whisky on the market.

About the bottle

Starward’s Fortis really is a step above their other whiskies—which is saying something considering how good the likes of the Solera and Nova iterations are.

The orangy gold glow of this whisky—as well as its 50%ABV—sets Fortis apart. Taking its name from the Latin for strong and bold, Fortis promises (and delivers) with its nominative determinism.

Grain and barrel

Early on, Starward decided to do things a little differently with their whisky. Rather than just starting or finishing with ex-wine barrels, which is fairly common in the whisky industry, Starward fully mature all of their spirits in ex-wine or fortified wine barrels.

Fortis is aged for two years in American oak ex-red wine casks from local wineries in the Barossa and from Victoria. And the malted barley in the mash is also Australian.

In fact, Starward has developed an ethos of keeping everything local, sourcing ingredients and barrels under a day’s drive away.

Tasting notes

There’s plenty going on with Fortis. On the nose, you get juicy blackberries, brown sugar, caramelised figs and oaky vanilla.

When you taste, there’s more ripe red fruit and figs, and a vanilla sweetness that’s offset by sour cherry notes and spicy heat from the high ABV.

The long yet dry finish is a surprise after the rich, deep body, and you’re left with a slight tingle on the lips and tongue.

Serving suggestions

Of course, enjoying this whisky neat or with a touch of water to open things up more is the way to go, but Starward’s Fortis in an old fashioned or boulevardier would be something pretty special too.


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