Arriving at the grounds of Cape Byron Distillery, home to the award-winning Brookie's Gin, you can't help but to slow down and be conscious of the surrounding beauty and stillness. Nestled amongst a tranquil, regenerated rainforest and an orchard of native macadamias, the purpose-built distillery and cellar door bar evoke an immediate sense of calm, not to mention curiosity as to what's going on inside their giant copper pot still known as 'George'.
A passion for rainforest regeneration has always been at the heart of the Brook family's farm and distillery business, and with sustainable practices also being core to Love Mae, we were keen to know more about this local company that we proudly call an 'almost' neighbour! Here, we talk to Eddie Brook, the co-founder and one of the distillers making the magic happen...
It’s refreshing to hear about a company that is dedicated to working with a landscape rather than depleting it. Cape Byron Distillery sits on regenerated land that's home to many Australian botanicals, can you tell us how the project for Brookie's Gin began?
It all began more than 30 years ago when my parents [Pam and Martin Brook] decided to do a sea change from Melbourne and purchased a 96-acre run-down dairy farm. The farm was once lush rainforest, however, it was cleared for dairy pasture some 100 years prior. They decided to plant macadamia's and fell in love with the idea of regenerating the rainforest. To date on our farm, along with the 4000+ mature macadamia trees, we have planted well over 35,000 rainforest trees and regenerated the land and rainforest back to life.
The rainforest is now teaming with wildlife and is home to some of the most incredible native Australian tree species and botanicals… and this is where the gin comes in. To cut a long story short, in my work travels I met one of the world's most legendary distillers from Scotland, Jim McEwan, and we became close friends. He is very much a family values man and when we spoke of what my family is passionate about, and the incredible native flavours that live within the rainforest, the idea to create Brookie's Gin was born.
Dashing distillers Eddie Brooks and Jim 'the cask whisperer' McEwan.
You refer to Brookie's as ‘the most natural gin in the world’. What makes Brookie's unique in this respect?
Everything we do starts from the land and the environment around us. We distil our gin with 26 different botanicals, 18 of which are native and unique to our area of Northern Rivers (greater Byron Bay region) – and the majority of those 18 come straight from our farm and rainforest. We also use the local natural Mt Warning spring water which has the purest sweet taste to it.
At Love Mae HQ, we're a little bit in love with the Brookie's Slow Gin. Can explain what's behind the flavour and pretty pink colour?
It is pretty damn delicious! Our Brookie's Slow Gin takes on average around six months to mature. Native to our rainforest region of Northern Rivers grows a unique plum known as the Davidson plum. To describe the flavour: imagine a bright, rich plum meets a sour warhead lolly! We take this plum and steep it in our Dry Gin for on average around six months until we reach a depth of flavour we want, and notes of dried raisins, watermelon and port emerge. We then take this plum spirit, balance it with some Mt Warning pure spring water and introduce just the right amount of raw sugar syrup to balance out the tartness on the Davidson Plum.
Brookie's work with many Australian native ingredients, what are the perks of this?
The is an absolute plethora of Australian native flavours available to us, and we see this as incredible flavour palate to construct spirits from. Secondary to this, we get excited about educating people about the native flavours that are local and unique to our area. We get such a kick out expanding people's palates and reconnecting them with what grows natively in the area.
The Distillery is driven by strong environmental values. Beyond the land, how is this expressed in other areas and practices of the company?
We have always been passionate about having a positive impact on our environment, and the work we have been doing on the land with bringing it back to life started well before the idea to create spirits. This is at the core of what we do, and we get so excited about sharing our passion with others. If you come to the distillery, not only will you learn about how we distil gin and about native flavours, you will also come away with the message that regeneration doesn't take a lifetime and we all have our bit to play. This is at the core of who we are and what we do, and these values align with all the incredible people that are part of our distillery.
Gin has always been a popular base for delicate cocktails, can you share with our Love Mae fans (many of whom are mums) how to best enjoy Brookie’s Gin in some real-life scenarios;
1. Quickly! Perhaps to take the edge off after a day of demanding little ones and family life. One of my mum’s favourite ways to have it is a healthy pour of Brookie’s Slow Gin on ice!
2. A cocktail amongst girlfriends: I would recommend a Southside Spritz: 45ml Brookie’s Dry Gin, 30ml fresh lime juice, 20ml sugar syrup & fresh mint leaves. Shake and strain into a glass and you can even put a splash of soda over the top.
3. Easily, on an impromptu picnic (aka drag the kids outdoors and let them run free): For easy mixing, you can’t go past a classic gin & tonic. Grab yourself a decent tonic, such as Capi Dry or Fever Tree, use a good measure of Brookie’s Dry (or Slow) Gin, ice and a slice of fresh grapefruit.
4. As a pitcher for gatherings (make it once and be done!): For flavour and simplicity go for a Take it Slow. Method: fill your pitcher with lots of ice and chop up some fresh seasonal fruit such as berries, peaches etc (really what is fresh and in season). Then add equal parts soda and tonic. If you wanted to sweeten it up, ginger beer works well.
Brookie’s Gin is best enjoyed with.
Good people & good tonic
In 10 words or less, can you sum up the everyday culture of Cape Byron Distillery?
We love making a difference and love making great spirits.
At the end of the day, what’s at the heart of Brookie's?
Having a positive effect on our environment (both land and community), enjoying what we do with great people and sharing the message. We aim to be a generational family business and be here sharing what we do for many years to come.
Our lucky readers receive a 10% discount at the Cape Byron Distillery online store, simply enter the code lovemae10 at the checkout.
Guided tasting tours of the distillery and rainforest happen every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Byron Bay hinterland home of Brookie's Gin. BOOKINGS are essential.