Drinking Victoria: David Vitale

Published on 18 August 2020

Photo: David Vitale, founder of Starward Whisky

Your guide to what's in the glass from those in the trade.

David Vitale is the founder of Melbourne whisky distillery Starward. Starting off his Starward journey, he had one simple vision: to create a uniquely Australian whisky he could offer the world with pride. Melbourne born and bred, David was inspired to create a spirit that reflects his hometown – from its culture, to its four-seasons-in-one-day temperature swings, to its claim as the food capital of the world. Starward’s newest release, Fortis, celebrates the Australian ingredients and the use of red wine barrels for maturation that Starward is known for. This first higher-ABV release (it clocks in at 50 per cent) for Starward is matured in 100 per cent American oak red wine barrels, mostly from Barossa Valley wineries, to give it a fuller and richer mouthfeel.

The last three delicious things I drank were…Out? Cherryhype from Byrdi: coconut Starward Nova, pickled Yarra Valley cherries, plum blossom, and dark chocolate. At home? A Boulevardier made with equal parts Starward Two-Fold, The Italian Bitter Amaro and Cocchi Torino vermouth. On the go? A Starward bottled (New) Old Fashioned.

As far as I’m concerned, the defining place to get a drink in Melbourne is Byrdi. It is to cocktails what some of our most essential modern restaurants are to food. An amalgam of old and new, a fresh and self-assured approach to drinks, very unassuming and approachable.

When someone hands me a wine list in a restaurant, I go straight for the central-Victorian shiraz. I think these wines epitomise the balance between complexity and approachability. Something we strive to do with our whiskies as well. 

The Victorian spirit I’m loving most right now is The Gospel Rye. I love a good rye whiskey and this is up there with the best in the world.

There’s no better value on a drinks list or in a bottle-shop in this state than any $20 Aussie shiraz. Up there with the best in the world at that price-point.

My favourite place to buy booze is Casa de Vinos in Port Melbourne. Great selection, great team and expertise.

I’d love to see us distilling more whisky in Victoria. Historically it’s the birth place of Australian whisky, currently we lead Australia in production of it, and I’d love to see a future with more Victorian whiskies on our shelves in bars and at home.

My guilty pleasure in the drinks cabinet is Averna. Nothing beats it as an after-dinner drink on the rocks. It’s probably the Sicilian in me.

The best or most important change to the way we drink in Victoria in recent years has been cocktails and long drinks. I love the fact that traditional spirits now feature as an ingredient in a great drink as opposed to the drink itself. It capitalises on our amazing bar scene and these bars’ ability to stretch the boundaries of drinks.

For me, the most inspiring person in the Victorian drinks world is Luke Whearty from Byrdi. The care and attention to detail that goes into creating his cocktails is mind-blowing.

Starward’s newest release, Fortis, and the range of Melbourne-made whiskies are all available at starward.com.au, and you can also keep up to date with Starward on Instagram @StarwardWhisky, Facebook @StarwardWhisky, and Twitter @StarwardWhisky.

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