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Water of Life - Melbourne Hot Sauce x Starward and Kavka Vodka

Not exactly the most guarded secret is that I love hot sauces and whisk(e)y and have yet to find an occasion where I would find either not suitable to enjoy.

However, this does not necessarily mean that they work well together.

There are quite a few experimental concoctions out there, where e.g. whiskey was finished in Tabasco barrels and while the pronounced spicy vinegar characteristics of the pepper sauce added an interesting facet, it did not amount to something I would consider to enjoy for more than the novelty of it.

What about the other way around though, i.e. hot sauce aged in ex whiskey barrels?

Enter Melbourne Hot Sauces collaboration with Starward distillery.

With Melbourne Hot Sauces having firmly established itself on the forefront of quality, flavoursome multipurpose hot condiment producers and with a well-respected line-up of well-calibrated and balanced hot sauces based on all-Australian ingredients without any added nasties, Starward could not have teamed up with a better partner than owner and founder Richard Nelson.

This 2021 Ltd edition release is a tour de force in harnessing the vibrancy that makes the carefully curated melange of Habanero, Red Jalapeno peppers, cherries, limes, bananas and Shiraz vinegar, before the melange is set to mature in Starward Nova single malt ex red wine Whisky barrels – which is one of the more refined expressions of Starward’s portfolio we have featured before.

Is your mouth watering yet?

If you are remotely into handcrafted and all natural hot sauces it should be, as this collaboration is an example par excellence for something the whole it culminated in is much more than the mere sum of its individual components would have you think.

What tickles the nostrils upon approach is a not unexpected culmination of peppery and spicy vinegar aromas, which dance with a slightly camphoraceous note.

Heat-wise, we are looking at a medium level, which is perfectly suited to shed the limelight on nuanced appearances of sweet, slightly tarty cherry flavours.

The elongated finished is where this sauce shines as it beautifully reverberates with the DNA of Starward’s Nova expression, i.e. fruity, nutty tannin rich Port wine vibes with a hint of toffee leaving one lusting for another splash.

Excellence is hot sauce form.

While I my preferred kind of liquor is definitely whisky, I can appreciate the flavour, aroma, and soft mouth feel of a good vodka. While in public perception vodka might be reduced to being little more than the spirit that mixes well with almost everything behind a bar, there is much more to it, especially when it comes to variants that lend themselves to be enjoyed neat.

When it comes to crisp and clean vodkas, wheat, grain and H2O are usually the main ingredients determining one’s vodka experience, with wheat having largely replaced potatoes as a source ingredient as it requires less distilling.

As far as water is concerned, it plays a multitude of roles, be it in the mashing process or during dilution to calibrate the ABV, with the purity or purification of water having become a determinator of quality.

Every now and then you come across a vodka that pushes the boundaries a bit while honouring the DNA of the spirit.

Enter Kavka Vodka.

Made in western Poland and marrying the best of the aforementioned traditional liquor crafting techniques, Kavka is the result of the marriage of rye and wheat spirits alongside small amounts of aged apple and plum spirits, which culminates in a strong flavour profile with a delicate nuanced fruitfulness.

Distilled and bottled by Prince Jan Felix Michal Korybut Woroniecki, whose mission was to create an idiosyncratic drop in line with Eastern European spirit traditions in a bid to reinvigorate vodka, Kavka convinces with depth, complexity and a distinct smoothness that is rarely found in other contemporary vodka variants.

Clocking in at 40% ABV and with its syrupy texture, subtle floral hints dance on the top of the mouth set against a backdrop of a dominant citrussy and orange- marmaladed backbone, with the finish reverberating in a crescendo of plum, apple and juniper notes.

A deliciously clean vodka that lends itself to be the base spirit for a Martini as well as sipping neat.


images from company websites

T • November 2, 2021

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