Opening your own distillery must be the ultimate ‘boys’ own career’! Yet, it’s exactly what Brian and Helen Restall did.
Not only is rum a passion for Brian, but so is renewable energy and sustainability.
The former CEO of Cape Byron Power, a local Northern Rivers 100% renewable electricity generator located beside the Condon sugar mill, Brian realised that most of the food-grade molasses, created as a by-product of the mill, was used for cattle feed. Surely, he thought, there had to be a better use for this product.
The defining moment, Brian says, is when he realised that rum is distilled from molasses. Around the family Christmas table several years ago, the idea of starting a micro-distillery was born.
At the end of 2017, after a five-year learning process, the couple founded Lord Byron Distillery, Brian’s brother Kris coming on board as the distiller.
One of their early visitors was Luis Ayala, the rum industry’s most devoted ambassador of the modern era, who spent three days with the family in an advisory capacity.
“Making spirits, for us, is about doing things right,” Kris tells us when we visit. “It takes commitment. Nothing is new. It’s about following old principles that are tried and tested.”
Around us are the giant stainless-steel tanks, aged bourbon barrels and a couple of handmade stills, some of them hundreds of years old.
Using only molasses from the local farmer-owned milling cooperative, water from a natural spring on the family farm and yeast, with no artificial flavour, colours and preservatives, Lord Byron Distillery makes a range of handcrafted premium spirits: aged rhum (non-aged rum), rum (barrel-aged for more than two years), vodka, gin, and limoncello from Australian bush lemons.
This family-owned distillery is not only using a secondary product, molasses, but it’s also zero-waste and carbon-neutral. Waste from the stills is spread out over woodchip, breaking it down very quickly to form a good quality soil, which is then sold for gardening.
Being less than two years old, the Restalls have a molasses-based unaged Silver Rhum, sold at 40% and 63% alcohol, vodka, gin and limoncello for sale at the distillery.
One rum, ‘The Promise’ (of things to come) is the exception. Made from 12-year-old 65% proof rum imported from Central America, it’s cut back with spring water to 40%, spiced and rested. Tasting it, there are notes of vanilla and caramelly bourbon on the palate.
Already, Lord Byron Distillery’s products are being honoured in shows, their unaged overproof rhum placing second out of 400 in the London Spirits Competition.
But if you think that it’s the Restall family having all the fun, that’s where you’re wrong! Not only do we get to taste each of the spirits you’ll see in production at the distillery, but there are cocktails available as well at the bar.
The distillery also runs several courses for the general public so that you can make your own spirits: an intensive 3-day Whisky Distilling Course, a 2 ½ hour Gin Blending Class where you make and take home your own 700ml bottle of bespoke gin, and 1-hour Cocktail Masterclass.
Hang around long enough and perhaps you too will catch the distilling bug!
Lord Byron Distillery, 7/ 4 Banksia Drive, Byron Bay, NSW Ph: 02 8646 4901
Open: Tue-Sat 12noon – 5pm