Eddie Brook is co-founder and distiller at Cape Byron Distillery in New South Wales, a company literally built around sustainability. He talks to Joe Bates about what makes his Brookie’s Gin special, his love of Islay, and why he’s raring to go on a food and surfing trip to Morocco.
Joe Bates (JB): What have been some of the most memorable and interesting countries and places that your work has taken you?
Eddie Brook (EB): One of the most interesting and memorable places I had the luck to visit is a small island called Islay off the Scottish mainland. Islay is where Jim McEwan, master distiller and co-founder of Cape Byron Distillery, was born and bred. The island itself has dramatically contrasting ocean cliffs and small but dense native forested areas. It is also home to some of (in my opinion) the world’s best distilleries (known as the spiritual home of whisky), Bruichladdich, Bowmore, Ardberg, etc. Visiting Jim there meant getting a true feel for what the island is all about and the life on Islay mirrored a lot of the values that are important to us back home: supporting local and showcasing the terroir of your own backyard.
JB: What other spirits, aside from gin, do you like to buy in duty free when you are travelling overseas?
EB: It has been a while since I have frequented a duty free! But I can’t go past without browsing the whisky aisle. Similar to browsing the shelves of a book shop, I love to get a sense for what’s new and how new distilleries are harnessing where they come from, and of course, gravitate to the classics – a Port Charlotte 10 Years Old or a The Balvenie release.
JB: Do you spend a lot of time on the road? If so, what travel tips do you want to pass on to our readers?
EB: I used to be on the road a lot! The best advice I ever received for travel was, “Don’t get caught up on the destination.” Cliché I know, but taking the time to stop along the way and make the most of the journey itself was a game changer. It’s the small local shops, the people, experiencing different food and drink cultures and unique experiences along the way that can make travel so much more than a destination and so much more memorable.
JB: If your flight was delayed, who would you most like to share a G&T with in an airport bar?
EB: I’d love to share a few G&Ts with Jamie Oliver. The guy’s love of food is infectious and I think he’d be a great drinking buddy with many tales to tell.
JB: We have a long 12-hour flight ahead. What book would you recommend we read to while away the time?
EB: The Oldest Foods on Earth by John Newton. It provides a great insight into native Australian foods and how important this was to the First Nations people (Indigenous Australians) and how they cultivated and cared for the land… plus some epic recipes!
JB: What makes Brookie’s Gin different from other Aussie gins and what’s your favourite way of serving it?
EB: Brookie’s Gin is a true snapshot of the flavours endemic to our region in the hinterland of Byron Bay. We have a diverse and exciting ‘pantry’ of ingredients that come from our rainforest and the flavours we are able to share are truly unique. As we hand forage many of the key botanicals in Brookie’s right from our family’s regenerated subtropical rainforest, it couldn’t be closer to the truth when we call Brookie’s Byron Dry Gin “Australian Rainforest Gin”. One of my favourite ways of serving Brookie’s Gin is with a couple of those native botanicals in a classic gin and tonic garnished with aniseed myrtle and Byron sunrise finger lime. If you don’t have access to these, however, nothing beats a Brookie’s Negroni – 30ml Brookie’s Byron Dry Gin, 30ml bitter orange and 30ml sweet vermouth stirred and strained over ice and garnished with an orange twist.
JB: If you had a spare 24 hours, what city in the world would you most like to explore?
EB: New York – I have never been, and the restaurant and bar culture is meant to be second to none.
JB: Tell us about a funny, strange or unusual thing that happened to you on your travels.
EB: There are a few stories that spring to mind but are best shared after a few Brookie’s and tonics. One of the most memorable experiences I have had was driving from Whistler to Mexico after finishing a snow season. The scenery and people we met along the way made it so special, but camping in the redwood forests in Oregon was something that I will always remember.
JB: Once international travel gets back to normal after the pandemic, what destination (international or domestic) will be top of your list to return to?
EB: My first trip will be with my fiancée, either on a food and surf trip to Morocco, or to chase some snow and saké in Japan. For now, though, we are really enjoying exploring our own, very big, backyard of Australia and the incredible places and experiences that it has to offer.