Lord Byron Distillery is one of those distillery stories I aspire to…
We often reflect on provenance when it comes to our food. Who grows it, the ethics of animal husbandry, organic, chemical free, the passions, etc. But when it comes to what we drink, we stop short. We might be concerned with how pure our water is, we occasionally favour Australian wines, and the craft beer movement is moving forward in leaps and bounds, but even then, we are focussed on the end product rather than the ingredients and provenance of where those ingredients come from. This is especially the case with spirits.
I often wonder why that is. I think tradition plays a small part in it – London Gin… well, provenance dictates that it comes from London, and juniper doesn’t grow very well in Australia… And then there is the distillation process, which in itself a bit of a purification process, so I guess when it comes to any impurities, they are filtered out in the process. Or at least that is what I am assuming.
But it is important. Australia is sustainable in so many other ways, so why drop the standards when it comes to our spirits? Why do we not question the provenance of our beverages when it comes to the rum in our mojito or the vodka in our martini?
Well, it turns out I do. And so did Brian Restall, the master distiller behind the new, and quite fabulous, Lord Byron Distillery, enough for him to build the whole ethos of his distillery around this humble question.
Byron Bay is known as a region that generally questions provenance. It is the home to many wonderful producers that focus on ethically, sustainably and locally produced. Every time I visit Byron Bay, the food alone would make me want to stay put for a while, and hearing that there was a new distillery in town was enough of a reason to make us plan a weekend away.
My primary focus was visiting Brian and hearing about his journey so far, and the fateful evening, while out for dinner, he asked that life-changing question that floated around the premise of the provenance of what we drink. And I am so excited that he did!
The Lord Byron Distillery itself is located on Banksia Drive on the outskirts of Byron Bay, but it is backed by the Restall family farm at Billinudgel, that is the heart and passion behind everything that happens in the distillery.
Ingredients are sourced from the farm, as well as from other producers in the regions, the sugar cane grown in the region the shining star.
Using locally grown sugar cane just makes sense. As CEO of Cape Byron Power, a 100% renewable energy generator, Brian observed that most of the molasses produced from locally owned sugar mills at Condong and Broadwater, would be used as stock feed, and both Brian and his wife Helen, felt that there could be a better use for the molasses. Enter rum!
I must confess, I am not much of a rum drinker, but I think Lord Byron could easily change that. It is the process that fascinates me the most – standing there in the presence of those incredibly sexy stills (Ada and Allegra – named after Lord Byron’s children, I suspect!), with the crystal clear spirit giving life to a new batch of rhum, I can easily see why distillers become so enthralled with it all. I am a little envious at this point…
Their stunning Alembic copper pot still was imported and handmade by a traditional coppersmith in Europe.
The envy builds…
The vision is for the micro distillery to be a zero discharge site, meaning that the waste products produced in the making of their spirits and usually wasted, ends its cycle as liquid fertilisers and a cattle feed additive back on the farm. Additionally the farm minimises its footprint by only utilising renewable energy.
The distillery is still in its infancy. Rum takes its time to develop – there is no rushing the process. Oak barrels line the room and are filled with their double distilled silver rhum for maturing as it is produced. But for something a little more instantly gratifying, Brian is also triple distilling and double filtering vodka and limoncello. I believe this may have been a matrimonial compromise; Brian likes the dark spirits, and Helen is passionate about white spirits – and I am very pleased that she is batting in that corner, being quite the white spirit fan myself!
Consequently, I came home with a newly acquired bottle of Silver Rhum (66% proof), and a newly acquired banksia muddler that I bought at the Bangalow Markets enroute, and I must confess again, a mojito has never tasted quite as good. Brian tells me that spearmint instead of common mint is the secret, and I concur, I believe it is. But in all seriousness, Lord Byron’s Silver Rhum is sensational. Double distilled, it is the white barrel strength rum prior to being matured in oak barrels, and has a depth of ‘clean’ flavour that is hard to beat.
The journey has not been made alone so far; Brian has had the help of his brother and Lord Byron Distillery is very much a family operation. There have also been the many valuable insights from mentor, and industry ‘godfather’, Bill Lark, from Tasmania’s illustrious Lark Distillery (another favourite).
I like to think he has also had the help of the distillery’s namesake, Lord Byron, a romantic English poet, of whom Brian has had a lifelong fascination with. It collides with my romantic notion of the workings of a distillery perfectly, and I look forward with anticipation of what is to come! Every aspect of Lord Byron Distillery has meaning and symbolism – origin, story, provenance, passion, as well as the footprint it all leaves behind.
The Lord Bryon Distillery is open to the public for tours, and spirits can now be bought online. If you are planning a trip to Byron Bay, make sure you plan it to coincide with one of the Bespoke Gin Blending or Cocktail Masterclasses. Brian generously shares his knowledge and passion, and produces a mighty fine, LOCAL in every sense, spirit.
For more information:
This story was written by Petra Hughes – Pebbles + Pomegranate Seeds
Photographs by Petra Hughes – © Copyright 2018 – All rights reserved.
Images may not be reproduced, downloaded or used without written permission from the copyright holder.