I first met Eddie Brook when he was work for the Australian distributors of The Botanist gin. Now Eddie and his family have launched Brookie’s gin in collaboration with Jim McEwan, creator of The Botanist. How’s that for serendipity?
The Brook Family moved to Byron Bay, where the distillery is located, 30 years ago. Then, it was little more than a run-down dairy farm with degraded land and poor soil. However some remnants of the rainforest remained and they set about planting macadamia trees and bringing the rainforest back to life. To date, they have planted over 4000 macadamia trees and over 30 acres of subtropical rainforest. Brookie’s Gin is part of their continuing commitment to supporting the environment around Byron Bay.
It was during Jim’s trip to Australia two years ago that he and Eddie hatched a plan to create Brookie’s Gin. Eddie confessed to me that he had been a long-time admirer of the man known as ‘The Cask-Whisperer’ and had avidly watched Jim’s YouTube videos. Jim was captivated by Eddie’s stories about the family farm and plans to rebuild a rainforest. When Eddie began to talk about the various native botanicals within the area around Byron, Jim saw the opportunity to create a gin together.
Two years later and the dream is now a reality. The Brook family have built Cape Byron Distillery where you’ll find a 2000 liter pot still created by Peter Bailly at Knapp Lewer in Tasmania at the heart.
Brooke’s Gin Botanicals
Of the 26 botanicals (interestingly The Botanist also has 26), 18 are native to Australia. The traditional botanicals, juniper, coriander, cassia, angelica and orris root form the backdrop for the gin. Then comes the extensive list of native Australian botanicals – Sunrise finger limes from Byron Bay, kumquat, blood lime, aniseed myrtle, cinnamon myrtle, White Aspen, riberry, the young leaves of the lilly pilly leaf, macadamia nut, native raspberries from Brook Farm, Dorrigo pepper leaf, river mint and native ginger. (If you want a little more information on some of these botanicals, check out this post).
Brookie’s Gin is made using the one-shot method of distillation with a botanical basket to vapor infuse the gin with native ginger. The traditional gin botanicals go into the main body of the still, but because of the volatility of some of the native ingredients, these are placed inside a muslin ‘Babylon bag’ which is dangled over the alcohol inside the pot.
On the nose you are greeted with citrus followed by juniper and coriander and hints of cinnamon in the background. The flavour is initially citrus forward followed by some delicate fresh raspberry notes, but these are quickly replaced with bold spice flavours from the native ginger and aniseed myrtle and an intense peppery finish. As you’d expect from such a botanical rich gin, Brookie’s is complex and each sip reveals another facet of the spirit.
Drinking Brookie’s Gin
Brookie’s makes a fine gin and tonic with plenty of citrus and juniper flavours. I garnished with mint, lime peel and raspberries to complement the botanicals.
With my martini I went for a 50/50 ratio (45ml gin to 45ml vermouth) as I wanted to let the botanicals shine. Maidenii Dry vermouth made an excellent partner and the martini was a botanical flavour bomb!
Making my Negroni, I went full Aussie and used Applewood’s Distillery’s Okär (in place of Campari) and Maidenii vermouth. The result was a slighter sweeter Negroni than I usually drink, but was a good contrast to the spicy notes of Brookie’s gin.
Brookie’s gin could not be anything but good with the distilling knowledge behind it. However, using lots and lots of native botanicals is risky and can result in an unbalanced gin (easy on the lemon myrtle people), but Eddie and Jim’s skills have created a tasty gin with a true sense of place.