N: More red wine maturation and another toffee nose, but this is significantly more subtle than The Lakes cask-deliberate direction. We’ve plenty of flora & fauna notes too, subtly so, with an absence of the more leading STR/cask resinousness which I’d found in their 10th Anniversary bottling [WLP84]. Indeed, David says that at Starward they are looking for oak character not flavour from previous cask contents. For example, a wine cask used for 6-7 years might be too wine-dominated for whisky maturation and disguise the oak flavour.
T: Pleasingly savoury < sweet and grassy to taste with a distillate chew all the way through, the cask influence just supporting and riding underneath. David says this comes from those soft red wine-casks being charred a-plenty to give a toasty-oak character. It works.
F: With the cask influence stronger on the turn, we’ve a soft dryish waxy spirit-cask finish. At the death, I get a beautiful aromatic [and becoming fruity] black pepper note without any spice or heat. Furthermore, I pick out some tutti-frutti with some chopped nuts and the beginnings of a husky depth.
C: Lovely contemporary whisky I could imagine craving for. Reminds me in part of Deanston’s Decennary [WLP88], but maybe the Whiskymaker’s Reserve had a part to play in that observation too. Like The Lakes, there’s a touch of ‘sweet-shop’ to their expressions [wine casks], but the distillery profile is coming on year on year.
I want to ask whether Starward mature their casks in temperate-controlled warehouses or part-allow the environment to influence the maturation/character, but the climate question has already been asked. Because of the hot climate, they lose water which brings the abv up too high. To combat this they fill their casks with spirit at a lower abv, typically 55%.