A taste of The Northern Rivers Botanical’s.
This week Balcony Staff were treated to an ‘educational’ excursion out to the pristine Cape Byron Distillery. Upon arrival we were greeted by the devilishly handsome boys, Eddie & Yowie (although I am led to believe Yowie has a far more main stream name, Brendan or something like that) names and good looks aside the guys are the real deal. With knowledge and passion for their product that resonates with every word.
Eddies devotion for Brookfarm and the abundance of natives available on his doorstep here in the Northern Rivers was evident from the first drink; 9am on empty stomachs we whet our whistles with a refreshing glass of Brookies Gin & Tonic, garnished with native finger lime and aniseed myrtle, subtly complimenting the botanicals of this seriously good gin.
Behind us stood the hero of the factory, a 2000 litre pot still aptly named George, in honour of Eddie’s grandfather, who didn’t mind a gin either. This regal looking still stands a good few meters tall, made with shiny bronze copper that not surprisingly contributes to the flavour composition of the gin. However it’s the 26 botanicals, 18 of which are Australian Natives including Sunrise finger limes, kumquat, blood lime, aniseed myrtle, cinnamon myrtle, white aspen, riberry, the young leaves of the lilly pilly leaf, macadamia nut, native raspberries, Dorrigo pepper leaf, river mint and native ginger that are the true flavour heroes.
With the taste of gin in our mouth and botanicals on our mind we were ready for the full flavour hit, Yowie quickly poured up a generous taster for each of us and we did our best to pinpoint the flavour notes in the glass while our minds ticked over with inspired cocktail ideas.
It was a chance encounter with renowned gin distiller, Jim McEwan that saw the birth of Brookies Gin. Listening to Eddie talk of the rich diversity of native botanicals available on his doorstep, Jim was instantly inspired and the idea was born, and what an idea! Within 2 years Cape Byron Distillery was built, with Brookies Gin readily available in stores, and bars nationwide excited to get their hands on the product, we’re confident these guys are going to be big players in the Australian gin scene. Production is not quite as simple as throwing all ingredients in the Pot Still and boiling, the difficulty lies in finding a balance of flavours due to the robust nature of individual botanicals. Jim woke one morning with a stroke of genius; by hanging some ingredients in a muslin bag and dangling them inside the pot, flavours could find harmony and the ‘Babylon Bag’ was born.
It’s not just Gin the Brook Family are passionate about, Eddie was eager to take us on a walk around the property. Before setting off we were delivered another Gin and Tonic, this time made with a dash of Kombucha, a collaboration with Brookies Gin and The Bucha of Byron. Rosy cheeked, we ventured down through the family property. A run down dairy farm just 30 years ago, The Brooks have been working hard to regenerate over 30 acres of subtropical rain forest while planting over 4000 macadamia trees to sustain the very successful Brookfarm brand. Eddie with a knife in pocket and Yowie with extra gins in hand lead us on a tasting journey of sorrel weed, native ginger and lemon myrtle.
Back at the cellar door Eddie was thirsty to introduce us to his newest project, Brookies Slow Gin. Made using the super tart Davidson plum, this light rose coloured gin has a distinct flavour, which softens when mixed with sugar and water. One last taster and a few bottles of Gin in hand, we were on our merry way.
Brookies Gin currently features on the Balcony cocktail menu as the hero in the “Dew of the Sea” a take on the classic, French 75. Meanwhile the cocktail masters behind the bar are experimenting with a Hot Brookies Bramble for winter and it’s fair to say the Brookies & Tonic will be a favourite of many.
Check out the full cocktail list here!
Cape Byron Distillery will be opening tours to the public in late May. For all booking details please visit www.capebyrondistillery.com