June 2, 2021 11:50 pm

Shane Ridley

Getting back to nature to get to the future of Aussie Gin

As soon as the days get shorter and cooler some of us embrace the change of season…think footy and open fires. While others look to the north for warmer weather and the feeling of sand underfoot.

So when a girl’s weekend in Byron Bay was suggested it was a no-brainer. And not for the hope of some quality beach time or Hemsworth spotting but for the chance to get along to Cape Byron Distillery.

The offer of the Rainforest & Distillery Tour by the awesome crew at Cape Byron Distillery was an offer too good to refuse.  Blocking out our Friday afternoon was the best decision we made all weekend (that and booking a driver to take us to and from the distillery).

Set in the hinterland of Byron Bay, Cape Byron soothes your senses from the moment you arrive via the dirt road. The distillery was established on the Brook’s family property, which has been transformed into a haven for birds and wildlife through rainforest regeneration. In fact, Pam and Martin Brook have planted over 35,000 subtropical trees.

The tour starts with a very civilized G&T on the balcony overlooking the rainforest whilst we wait for the tour to commence. And truth be told, if I didn’t know what was to come we could have stayed put and happily sipped our way through the very tempting gin cocktail menu. But curiosity got the better of us and we walked into the rainforest with our lovely tour guide.

As we ventured deeper into the rainforest we learn of the Brooks family’s passion for the environment and sustainability (in fact they have just been awarded international ‘Sustainable Distillery of the Year’ at the recent Gin Awards 2020 in London) and their mission to use native local botanicals in their spirits. From feeling and smelling the native botanicals to pop quizzes throughout the tour, our group of gin enthusiasts were captivated.

rainforest tour

Next up was the tasting in the distillery and it couldn’t come soon enough. Rainforest walks sure do work up a thirst. Surrounded by the very impressive still aptly named George after the family patriarch, we sniffed and sipped our way through Cape Byron’s gin, whisky and liqueur offerings. Informative, fun and interactive our guide captivated us with her knowledge and storytelling of this very impressive family and the evolution of their distillery.

Front runners on the tasting front were unsurprisingly Brookie’s Byron Bay Dry Gin and Brookies Slow Gin packed with rainforest Davidson plum leaving no doubt why their slow gin is a gold medal award winner. The surprise was Shirl the Pearl, a seasonal kumquat gin that punches you with orange blossom and has you thinking of marmalade on toast.

With the tasting finished, the cocktails were calling so we settled ourselves back on the balcony and did a great job working our way through the cocktail menu.

Brookies cocktails

We couldn’t leave without making some purchase of our newfound favourites from the very impressive gift shop. Not only can you grab your gins but take home some Brookies sanitizer found in nearly every Byron shop plus the very morish Brooksfarm muesli.

Get your hands on Brookie’s Byron Bay Dry Gin in Gintonica’s Holy Grail of NSW Gin Tasting Pack

As we were driven back into town with our new found local gin knowledge and an understanding of the environmental good happening in the Northern Rivers we came to realise Byron Bay is so much more than acai bowls, influencers and catching glimpses of Hollywood A-listers. It’s about passionate artisans leading the charge in innovation in the Australian Craft Gin movement.

I still wouldn’t say no to a quiet G&T with a Hemsworth!


Lady Marmalade Cocktail – by Brookie’s Gin


60mL Shirl the Pearl
30mL lemon juice
10mL frothing agent (aquafaba, Wonderfoam, or egg white)
1 bar spoon of marmalade


Put all ingredients into a cocktail shaker and give it a dry shake.

Add ice for second shake and strain into an ice-filled glass.

Garnish with a single cumquat.