Pure Spirit a Blank Canvas to Build Botanical Blends
“Endless inspiration” for the Cape Byron Distillery range of spirits can be found on the Brook family farm, in the sub-tropical rainforest hinterland of Byron Bay, in NSW.
Cape Byron Distillery is nestled among more than 35,000 rainforest trees and a macadamia orchard, all planted by Pam and Martin Brook. Thirty years ago, they began their transformation of the almost 40-hectare, run-down dairy farm.
Established in 2000, their Brookfarm family business produces gourmet mueslis, granolas, snack mixes, porridge and macadamia oil — value-adding instead of just adding the nuts to chocolate.
“Everything for us as a family stems from the farm,” said distiller Eddie Brook, co-founder of Cape Byron Distillery.
“Mum and Dad had passion and vision, when they began planting macadamias, and for learning about how to care for the land.
“It’s here where we draw endless inspiration for our spirit range. We’re blessed with an abundance of incredible native Australian produce in the greater Byron Bay-Northern Rivers region, and we are excited about showcasing native Australian produce and flavours in spirits that consumers have never tasted.”
Mr Brook said a “tremendous synergy” between the farm and distillery businesses stemmed from core values of sustainability, quality, and family values.
The products are diverse but the story of their provenance, message and purpose are very much aligned.
“We were brought up with an immense love and care for the land – especially after seeing the positive impact we can have by bringing the land and rainforest back to life,” Mr Brook told The Cultivator.
After growing up working in the family business, when “normal” daily life for two Brook brothers involved helping their parents weed out lantana infestations and re-plant native rainforest trees, Mr Brook forged a career in the premium Australian spirit industry.
This led to an “opportune” encounter with his idol Jim McEwan, legendary master distiller of the classic single malt Scotch whiskey, Bruichladdich.
“Jim and our family formed a strong friendship,” said Mr Brooks. “He fell in love with our passion for sustainability and the plethora of native Australian flavours – and the rest is history.”
Building the distillery in the middle of their regenerated rainforest and macadamia orchard, Mr McEwan and Mr Book in 2016 produced the first batch of Brookie’s Dry Gin — which remains part of a range that includes Mac by Brookie’s and Brookie’s Byron Slow Gin, along with a new whisky being developed with Mr McEwan for launch in 2021.
“When it comes to business, this idea of sustainability is at the core of everything we do,” said Mr Brook.
“Through our practices, we have now achieved zero green waste in production due to our onsite composting system; dramatically reduced our soft plastics; and continue to regenerate.
“Additionally, we’re lucky enough to educate our customers through tours, tastings and other events – leaving our visitors with the message that regeneration is key; the problem isn’t too big; and we can have a significant positive impact to the land and environment.”
Mr Brook said that consumer awareness of what Australian native botanicals could offer was increasing in tandem with Australia’s growing domestic gin and spirits market — making it “extremely important for customers to truly understand what we are all about”.
“From telling our story to bartenders or customers in Sydney, to taking tours through our rainforest distillery and farm, you can see in that moment you’re opening their eyes to the importance of native vegetation and how much this land has to offer,” he said.
“We’re seeing an exciting trend with the emergence of new, quintessential Australian flavours in not just Australian spirits but also the contemporary Australian cocktail.
“This, paired with the increased exposure of quality Australian spirits, is encouraging consumers to try products from their own backyard.”
Mr Brook said 2020 would be a year of significant growth for Cape Byron Distillery, to more than quadruple the existing production capacity and triple the warehousing at a new site being built on-farm.
“We have simply not been able to keep up with demand for Brookie’s Byron Slow Gin – infused with the native Davidson plum and taking an average 11 months to mature – which is a good problem to have,” he laughed.
Focused on both domestic and export markets, Cape Byron Distillery will continue to showcase the quality of Australian spirits alongside the value and versatility of their native botanicals.
“We will continue to expand our range with Manildra Group’s quality grain-neutral spirit at the core of our products,” Mr Brook said.
Produced at our world-class ethanol distillery in the NSW town of Nowra, Manildra Group’s beverage-grade ethanol “is the perfect blank canvas from which we produce our art”, said Mr Brook.
“So, we feel unbelievably fortunate to have the highest quality ethanol made in Australia, which really gives us the opportunity to finely craft our products.
“Our supportive working partnership also provides the confidence that Cape Byron Distillery can continue to expand knowing that Manildra Group will do so with us, and we are investing in a much larger storage tank on the new site to significantly improve both storage and freight.”
Manildra Group Head of Ethanol Debbie Forster said the partnership between the two Australian family-owned businesses was strengthened by the Brooks’ passion for quality ingredients, sustainability and the environment.
“Like Manildra Group, it is a matter of principle for Cape Byron Distillery to always choose Australian ingredients first,” said Ms Forster.