Financial Review 25 September 2019 | Max Allen

Kindred spirits flourish in the shadow of Mount Warning

There must be something in the water, judging from the growing numbers of distillers in the Northern Rivers region of NSW.

(Extract)

Last stop of the day is Lord Byron Distillery, tucked away in a corner of the Arts & Industry Estate in Byron Bay. Former renewable energy power station CEO Brian Restall and his family established this business just 18 months ago to make rum and other spirits. Given Restall’s background, it’s no surprise the distillery has impressive eco-credentials: the stills are fired using 100 per cent renewable energy from the power station that’s fuelled by the spent cane from the local sugar mill that processes the molasses Restall makes his rum with. Water comes from a spring on the Restalls’ farm, and the nutrient-rich waste from the distillery goes back onto the farm as fertiliser.

Like the other two distilleries, Lord Byron is keen to engage with tourists and the local community: there’s a small cellar door/bar on site, and Restall offers cocktail-making demonstrations and gin-blending sessions that teach the fundamentals of distilling. Thanks to this focus on education and support, it won’t be long before other brands and products start to appear on the Northern Rivers spirits scene.

Restall has helped another local make his first small batches of a whisky that is currently maturing in small quarter-casks, waiting for a name and a label. At Cape Byron distillery, Eddie Brook let me taste from a barrel of his first batch of whisky: it was filled only at the beginning of 2019 but already shows huge promise. And Tintenbar Distillery south of Byron Bay bottles really small batches of certified organic spirits: the production run on their Cumquat May citrus infusion was just eighty 450ml jars at $49 a pop.

As Restall takes the bung out of a barrel and draws a sample of excellent young spirit destined to be bottled as his first proper oak-aged rum release in a year or two, he – like the other distillers in the region – is clearly having a lot of fun in his new career.

“Doing the thing I love in the place I love with people I love,” he says. “It’s the holy trinity.”

 

Lord Byron Distillery Limoncello Front and BackLord Byron Distillery Limoncello [Byron Bay]
Made by steeping the peel of local knobbly bush lemons in new-make spirit distilled from molasses, this is one of the most unusual and best limoncellos I’ve tried from anywhere. Really intense, almost vinous citrus aromatics – weirdly but deliciously reminiscent to me of a really good riesling made from late-harvested, botrytis-affected grapes – and a gorgeous background echo of sweet sugary rum. 375ml $48 lordbyrondistillery.com.au