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Aussie whisky distillery’s ‘bloody amazing’ gong at World Spirits Competition

A Victorian whisky distillery has been crowned best in the world at an international spirits competition.

Starward Whisky claimed the most double-gold medals of any distillery in the “Olympics” for spirits, becoming the most awarded of the year at a competition staged in San Francisco.

Starward, based in Port Melbourne, was the first Australian distillery to win the World Spirits Competition in its 22-year history.

The Aussie distillery beat around 5000 entrants – showcasing whisky, gin, vodka and tequila – from renowned alcohol-producing countries such as Scotland, Japan, the US and the UK.

Starward received 12 double-gold medals, meaning each of the judges critiquing the whisky gave it gold.

The clean sweep was a “dream come true” for the distillery.

Starward has been crowned as the best distillery in the world.
Camera IconStarward has been crowned the best spirit distillery in the world. starward.com.au Credit: Supplied

“Our vision to bring an approachable and delicious Melbourne whisky to life shines through this accolade and it wouldn’t be possible without the passion of our team,” the company said in a statement said.

Starward founder David Vitale told 3AW radio that the win was “bloody amazing”.

“It is a big deal,” Mr Vitale said.

“We started 15 years ago and to be honest you always have an inkling, ‘Why can’t we be the best?’ (but) to pull it off is something completely different.”

Award-winning Starward products include “two-fold”, its double-grain whiskey, and “fortis”, its single-malt alternative. A 700ml bottle retails for $69 and $139 respectively.

Judges, described as “American mixology royalty”, take about 4½ months to test all the samples through “highly controlled blind tastings”.

Unaware of what they’re sipping, the judges then award a medal before a panel decides on a final rating.

Judges of the competition are considered royalty in spirits circles. Adam Gibson
Camera IconJudges of the competition are considered royalty in spirits circles. Adam Gibson Credit: Supplied

To achieve double gold, all judges on the panel must have awarded the spirit gold.

Quality of distillation, complexity, delivery of flavours, integration of ageing and representation of class and category are all key criteria.

“The judges have a pretty good time,” Mr Vitale joked.

“It’s like the Olympics, we punched a bit beyond our weight and took home the most awarded distillery.”

“Amazing” wine country in Victoria and South Australia gave Starward a competitive edge on international rivals, Mr Vitale added.

“We’ve got amazing barley and wheat that grows a day’s trip away from the distillery,” he said.

“We’ve got these amazing wine barrels on our doorstep in the Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, Central Victoria and obviously the Barossa, so we age our whisky in those wine barrels and it gives it a really distinctive flavour that you just don’t get in bourbon and scotch.

“It’s fruity, really approachable, not too bad, apparently.”


  • “Two-Fold” double grain
  • “Fortis” single-malt
  • “Octave Barrels” single-malt
  • “Unexpected” single-malt
  • “Hungarian Oak” single-malt
  • “Nova” single-malt
  • “Ginger Beer Cast #6” single-malt
  • “Tawny #2” single-malt
  • “Dolce” single-malt

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