Behind the doors of the most awarded Distillery of the Year (that’s us!)

Fifteen years ago we had an idea, some red wine barrels and Melbourne’s weather on our side. Today, we’re officially Distillery of the Year. Here’s how it happened according to Starward’s Head of Production, Sam Slaney.

A win 15 years in the making is certainly something to be applauded — and it also feels like the opportune time to get to know the ins and outs of Starward. So, where do we begin? With a drink, of course! After all, this is a celebration. Sam’s drink of choice is ‘a Nova Whisky, neat, in a nice glass — it’s our flagship single malt whisky, matured in French and American oak barrels, and encapsulates all the facets of Starward.’ We’ll have what he’s having.

Starward Distillery copper stills in Port Melbourne

Let’s set the scene. When you step into the Starward distillery, you’re greeted by a cavernous old (like 100 years old) shed. It’s a big space; you need plenty of room. The ceilings tower above and the sound of pumps, steam, forklifts and people shouting are punctuated with the ‘chink’ of ice being dropped into glasses at the bar. Yes, the distillery has a bar and yes, the drinks are always flowing. As you take in the space, you’ll notice a slightly fruity scent fill your nostrils — the fermentation. ‘That’s all those lovely fruity esters from the yeast fermenting plus the smell of red wine from the oak barrels.’ This is Starward: a modern urban distillery proud of being in Melbourne and to be doing everything under one roof. ‘We go from grain to bottle on site,’ explains Sam. ‘We get our malted barley from Geelong, we use our super clean Melbourne water, and all staff (from finance to marketing) work out of here. It’s a real space — a nice mix of polished service next to the place it’s made.’


Fantastic people and friends who’ve come and gone over the past 15 years celebrate this win. ‘They’ve all been across the journey and have contributed so much to what we do and who we are,’ says Sam. Notable shoutouts include Starward’s Head Blender Jarrad who, according to Sam, is whisky master material: ‘I don’t use that word ‘master’ willy-nilly, but he’s well on his way.’ Then there’s Head Distiller Lach who’s all over nailing the quality, and Production Manager Pete who ensures everything happens without a hitch behind the scenes. ‘We couldn’t have done it without our team — they’re a reflection of the work and love put into Starward.’

Team photo in the Starward Distillery in Port Melbourne surrounded by whisky barrels

The win was no mean feat, nearly 5,000 from across the globe threw their hat in the ring. To take home the prize, you must be the distiller earning the most points, measured by the number and level of awards won. We’re chuffed to have won 12 Double Gold and 3 Gold medals this year — and it’s fantastic validation of not only the quality of whisky Starward is making, but also what’s coming out of Australia. ‘We’re proud of Starward leading the charge of Australian whisky going global, and to get it on the tips of tongues of drinkers and food enthusiasts around the world.’

Bright fun image of Starward Two-Fold Whisky with tonic cocktails and mexican food

Want to visit the most awarded Distillery of the Year but you’re not sure where to start on the drinks list? Sam suggests a Two-Fold and tonic. ‘People come in who aren’t necessarily whisky drinkers; we’ll serve them a Two-Fold, ice and a good quality tonic topped with a slice of ruby grapefruit and they try it and say “Wow! I didn’t know you could do that with whisky!”’ That’s just the beginning — we’ve got plenty more whiskies to try neat, over ice or shaken up in a cocktail. So, see you at the bar where you can raise a glass Distillery of the Year. We’ll drink to that!

Learn more about the award winners.