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Eddie Brook

Eddie (left) and Jim McEwan

With a focus on rainforest regeneration and local education, Eddie Brook, co-owner of Byron Bay’s Cape Byron Distillery, is changing the face of distilleries Australia- (and world) wide.

Alongside the rest of his equally passionate family, the longtime Byron local has also managed to master the art of creating world-class gin. For which we are all extremely grateful.

We sat down for a chat with Eddie about the families’ 30 year passion for rebuilding the rainforest and the recent announcement of Cape Byron’s Distillery’s very first whiskey.

How long have you been a Byron Bay local?
Our family have owned a farm here for 30 years, so before I was born. We moved up here when I was seven or eight so I’ve been a local for most of my life. We’ve been farming macadamias and regenerating rainforests for 30 years on St Helena, which is in the hinterland of Byron Bay.

What do you love most about living in this part of the world?
This is home for me and the older I get the more I appreciate the area. I have quite a love of nature, the land and the environment, so to come to the distillery every day, in the middle of our farm, set amongst the rainforest and be able to educate people on rainforest regeneration is pretty special. We get to be involved in the local community and give back as much as possible. We’re beyond appreciative to have the community involved in this journey from the start.

Cape Byron Distillery

Tell us how the Cape Byron Distillery came into being?
My first ever job outside of being a bartender was as a brand ambassador for Bruichladdich. How I learnt to talk about the product, was watching every single YouTube video possible of Jim McEwan (Master Distiller at Bruichladdich) talking about their products. They became more than just a product. They became the people, the land and the environment which has such a huge impact on its creation. To be honest, I was a huge fanboy of Jim, if I could’ve had a poster of him on the wall, I would have. After working in the industry for many years, I got the opportunity to put on an Australia-wide tour for him and we did a 22 show tour, 100 people plus at every event. In the time we spent together, a strong friendship was born. One day he asked about my parents, who we are as a family and what we do, I told him about our farm and how passionate we are about giving back to the land and the plants native to the region. That was really where the idea for the distillery started. He turned to me on one trip and told me we were meant to meet and start this distillery. I still bear the scars from pinching myself today.

Your family is passionate about rainforest regeneration and sustainability, how does this come into play within the distillery?
We’d been regenerating rainforests and working with the land long before the distillery came about. For us now, it plays a couple of parts, we’re able to reinvest into regenerative work and in particular, the work we do with the Big Scrub Landcare organisation but further to that, when people come and do tours we get to talk more about the rainforest than the gin itself, so it’s an opportunity for us to educate people about regeneration. The rainforest here is only 30 years old and when people come to experience it, they realise it doesn’t take a lifetime to regenerate a rainforest. It’s not too big a task and everyone can play their part in bringing our land back to life.

Brookies Gins very quickly became much-loved drops worldwide, what’s unique about your process of creating them and their flavours?
All of our products are dry and slow and everything we want to do is about showcasing our region. Our Dry Gin is distilled with 25 botanicals, 18 of which are native to Australia and our region and we’re able to source a wild harvest from our rainforest. We take Lilli Pilly leaves and the Rye berries from our farm; we’ve also got aniseed, cinnamon myrtle and macadamia that go into our gins. There’s a huge abundance of these flavors we source from right here. It’s about selective harvesting which means we always plant and regenerate more than what we would ever take from the land. For instance, if there were 12 stems of native ginger, we would only take a maximum of three from that crop so it wouldn’t be affected. With our Dry Gin, we wanted to showcase the Northern Rivers botanicals and if you look at the native flavours that are in abundance in this area, we have the perfect pantry for crafting it. In our Slow Gin, we use one single fruit, which is called the Davidson Plum and you could not get more local to Northern Rivers than this plum. The DNA of this variety comes from Mullumbimby just 10 kilometres north of here. I grew up making jam from it every year with Mum and I’ve always wanted to showcase it. For our Mac liqueur, we use roasted macadamias and roasted wattle seed purely from here.

Cape Byron Distillery recently announced their first whiskey, what can you tell us about it?
It’s not whiskey yet, it becomes whiskey once it’s lived in a barrel for two years but we have commenced our single malt whiskey program. Jim McEwan was back in Australia and he is is the world’s most awarded scotch whiskey distiller, he’s the only many to be awarded International Distiller of the Year three times in a row. He’s got 55 years in the scotch whiskey production industry. To have him as a mentor and business partner to craft our spirit is incredible. To make our single malt spirit, we start with beer and we’re very fortunate to be working with some dear friends and an incredible local business to create that beer. Stone and Wood, they’re amazing producers of beer in our area and they’re very ingrained in our community. We just loved having this opportunity to work closely with them. So they produce our beer, we then distill it twice in Pottsville at our distillery and it then ages in American Oak bourbon casks. It sits there and breathes the same air we breathe, when the barrel is warm, the spirit expands into the wood and when it’s cold, it gets pushed out of the timber, so the environment has a huge impact on the flavour and in two years time when it becomes whiskey, it will have a lot of the character of the Northern Rivers ingrained into it.

Can you tell us about the distillery tours?
We run distillery and rainforest tours, every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. They’re run through bookings on our website and we keep them to about 20 people per tour so you get a very intimate experience. When you come to the distillery, we’ll greet you with a gin and tonic garnished with native finger lime and aniseed myrtle then you’ll get to experience our rainforest; we take you on a walk through and you get to touch and taste and understand different native flavours and about rainforest regeneration. Then we come back to the spirits and do a tasting and an educational drinking tour of how we make them. It’s $35 per person and runs for about an hour and three quarters.

How is your family changing the face of distilleries?
In Australia, we’re such a young industry for spirits. We get excited about learning all the lessons and doing things the traditional way. We’re so lucky to be trained by Jim – for hundreds and hundreds of years the Scots have been perfecting the art of distillation for their single malt whiskey – so we take all those lessons and traditions and use them to make our spirits. We also get to capture everything that’s unique to Northern Rivers and we love showing the art of distillation and also our unique flavours and environment. It makes for a pretty exciting combination to create a new chapter in Australian and international distilleries. We’re getting noticed, we’re now on shelf at Harrod’s in the UK which is pretty cool for them to be interested in our story. Plus having customers buying our spirits alongside the finest single malt whiskies in the world is pretty special.

Do you have anything else exciting in the works for 2019?
We’ve always got a few things up our sleeves. We’re a family who love creating so you can rest assured that throughout the year there will be at least one or two more releases showcasing some unique native flavours people can enjoy at home. I can’t tell you too much yet, but we do have a few plans.

What’s your personal favourite tipple on a balmy summer afternoon?
For me at the moment it would be a Slow Gin on ice. Nice and simple. When the gin hits the ice and it melts it opens up the spirit it’s just delicious. It is a bit moreish so you might have to pour yourself another one after that.

Brooke Raven

Brooke Raven is pretty much living the dream as far as we’re concerned, having recently opened a stunning fashion boutique in Robina Town Centre.

The newbie, Issue.1 is filled with a carefully curated collection of fashion forward pieces including plenty of Gold Coast brands, Brooke’s personal passion.

We sat down for a chat with Brooke about what it takes to open your very own boutique and local designers to watch out for.

How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
30 years, I moved from Sydney with my family when I was little.

What do you love most about living here?
It’s an amazing place to raise my family, and whether you love the hinterland or the beach, shopping or the outdoors, everything is only ever 20 minutes away!

Tell us about your new boutique?
Issue.1 is the result of 18 years in the retail fashion business, and getting to know my customers at Robina Town Centre over the past 10 years. It is a carefully curated selection of practical, functional and fashion forward pieces for the modern woman who loves fashion but needs her wardrobe to be effortless and easy to wear. We try on absolutely everything we buy before selecting it, and buy specifically with our customers in mind. We hope it’s a place where women of all shapes, sizes, styles and backgrounds can come and feel comfortable and leave feeling confident and beautiful in their purchases.

You’re passionate about supporting homegrown talent, tell us about some of the local brands you love…
I absolutely love local brands St Helena, Lisa Brown, Dylan Kain, and Valley Eyewear to name a few. I work directly with the designers of all of these brands and love the passion we share for adorning our customers in original, locally designed pieces. I am currently working with local designer Lisa Brown on a custom gown for one of our beautiful VIP customers for an upcoming black tie event, and I just love that I am able to offer her that service because Lisa makes everything here on the Coast in her Mermaid Beach studio.

How do you think fashion on the Gold Coast has evolved in recent years?
The main change I have noticed is the incredible local design talent that has emerged. Ten years ago, there was very little fashion-wise coming out of SEQ and NNSW; now we have so many super successful and talented designers in our backyard and it’s great to see the support that the locals give them

What are you trend predictions for the upcoming season?
We’re going to see the return of khaki (an Issue.1 fave!) and deep plums for winter, with a pop of red and bold florals. Midi skirts are huge, and florals will feature all AW19 and well into Spring. We absolutely love a leopard print, and have a variation of this trend coming through over the coming months.

Any upcoming designers we should keep an eye out for?
Saint Helena from Bangalow – an amazing women’s swimwear and apparel designer. Also keep an eye out for the release of our own issue.1 signature accessories coming through.

Why is it important for you personally to wear and support Australian designers?
To put the Gold Coast on the map for fashion – we have so many amazing designers around us and I am proud to say I’m a GC girl!

Any advice for someone looking to start their own business?
Plan, plan, plan – know who your target market is and tailor your product/service to meet their needs and wants. Be prepared to work until very late most nights and feel the constant guilt between being an awesome mum and wife, and being an awesome businesswoman. Make sure you have support from your family and an amazing team working with you.

Tell us your favourites on the Coast…
Cafe: Barbosa Deli at Robina Town Centre
Restaurant: Iku at Burleigh Heads
Beach: Tallebudgera
How does you your weekend usually look: To be completely honest, it includes about seven loads of washing, cleaning my house, running around after my three and six year-old children, and doing some cooking for the week ahead. We usually manage to squeeze in dinner at our local Japanese, a family movie night, and a swim on Sunday.

Mitch Roberts and Hayley Tucker

They’re the delightful pair behind your sweet, lifesaving cuppa every morning so, for Mitch and Hayley of Social Espresso, let’s all take a minute to give thanks.

The clever couple started their business just a few short years ago and, in that time, have amassed a huge following of loyal Gold Coasters in love with their unique blends.

We sat down for a chat with Mitch and Hayley about what it takes to create a brand new coffee blend (yes it’s a lot of coffee) and how they came to be stocked in so many locally loved cafes. 

How long have you been Gold Coast locals?
We moved from WA to the Gold Coast about five years ago now for Hayley’s work at the time. Fell in love with it immediately and very quickly made it our home.

What do you love most about living in our beachside city?
We are both from small coastal towns so we love that it has beautiful beaches and that laid back coastal vibe but there is also a great buzz! There is an awesome cafe and restaurant scene (we are both foodies) and so much growth and opportunity for business. We feel there is a great sense of community here where startup businesses are encouraged and small businesses support each other and work together and that’s pretty special!

Tell us how your business, Social Espresso, came about?
Mitch: I’ve always worked around coffee and while on a surf trip through Central America I visited some coffee plantations and my real interest in coffee began. When I moved back to Australia I began deepening my experience as a barista. From there it progressed to managing cafes. When we moved to the Gold Coast I had the goal of eventually starting my own business. I started working for several cafes and I felt there was a gap for local coffee with a strong focus on service and so I just started learning everything I could and took the leap.

What’s the process of creating such a unique blend?
It’s quite a journey the coffee bean takes from crop to cup. But keeping it short and simple; we start with an idea of a flavour profile we want to achieve. We generally find the most crowd pleasing is a full body with smooth caramel and milk chocolate sweetness and a slight berry or dried fruit acidity. We source a variety of beans from around the world and sample them through a process called cupping. Here we look for different characteristics in each bean, some offering body, some sweetness, others a fruity acidity. From there we build the flavour profile through these layers to give our drinkers the best experience

Why do you think people grew to love it so quickly?
It took time and lots of trial and error to come up with a few blends we are really proud of. We had the Gold Coast market in mind and are constantly asking the public what they look for in their daily brew. I think that’s the most important thing, keeping the end consumer as top priority and not getting too carried away with trying to be too different. We also make sure we work with good machinery and train our baristas thoroughly in weighing and timing each shot in order for them to deliver consistently delicious coffee every time.

What does a normal day look like for the two of you?
Starting bright and early serving coffee in our coffee bar in the Burleigh industrial area. We open from 5.30am to 10.30am for the morning rush – it’s our favourite way to start the day – chatting to our regulars and having a few laughs, networking and solving the problems of the world. Once that shift is done we then pack both cars up, split ways and pop into each of our cafes with their weekly delivery. Mitch looks after all barista training so he may have a few of those booked in each week. The rest is filled in with time at the roastery, machine maintenance, sales enquiries, packing online orders, marketing and back end admin. It’s just a two-man band so we do it all. 

How do your beans come to be brewed by some of the most loved cafes across the Coast?
We feel extremely lucky to work with some of the top cafes on the coast. We have formed great relationships in our coffee community and have been lucky enough to get most of our business through these friendships, customers and word of mouth. Service is a priority for us; we make sure we are in our cafes each week checking that everything is running smoothly. We really love what we do and I think that’s the key to a successful business.

What else is involved in the business we might not be aware of?
We partnered up with our friend Jeremy at Raw Earth Organics to start our own cold brew company, Two Amigo’s Cold Brew. It’s really taken off nicely and we are stocked in several cafes, bars, restaurants, markets and supermarkets throughout the coast. That’s been an exciting little venture and one that we are hoping to keep growing.

What’s the plan for 2019 for the two of you?
Further growth hopefully in both Social Espresso and Two Amigo’s cold brew. There are still so many areas we would love to branch into. And a holiday! It’s been a while.

Tell us your favourites on the Coast…
Beach: We live right on Talle Creek, so we feel like that’s our little local sanctuary. But our favourite beach has to be Cabarita. For Mitch it’s wherever there is surf.}Cafe: This is a hard one, it’s a little like asking who your favourite child is. Obviously we love all our Social Espresso cafes! But depending on what mood we are in, we usually can’t go past breaky at Cafe Caribou. Cafe Dbar also do a great feed and they have incredible views! Mitch loves a pie on the go at Fuel Bakehouse or on treat day a coffee and donut at D point 10…if you haven’t tried one of their donuts, you haven’t lived! We are also really excited for our newest partnership, Burleigh Co-op who’ll be opening their doors in a few weeks!
Restaurant: Etsu. We love Japanese and this place never disappoints! It’s our go-to when we need to treat ourselves (which is quite often) or impress visitors. We also love Baskk in Kirra. Epic food and cocktails and a really fun vibe.
How does your weekend usually look: Getting up early (cant sleep in to save ourselves), Mitch usually goes for a surf, I go to yoga and then meet at home to make a cold brew coffee, throw the mattress in the back of the van and cruise down the coast for an adventure. We love finding cool new cafes, a quiet beach to surf and relax and a nice spot to park up for the night (preferably with ocean views)

Brittiny Heyden

These days the Gold Coast is absolutely overflowing with talented makers, creative and business owners bringing our beachside city to life with their talents.

One such maker is local lass Brittiny Heyden, owner and designer of ocean-inspired label Lakiki Jewellery, a stunning brand made up of unique pieces perfectly suited to our coastal lifestyle.

We sat down for a chat with Brittiny about starting a business after a stint living in Indonesia and a potential new, honeymoon slash Santorini-inspired range.

How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
I’ve been living on the Gold Coast for about eight years but I grew up in Pottsville Beach.

What do you love most about living here?
I love how clean and beautiful our beaches are, and how close everything is, yet there’s still a nice local village vibe.

Tell us about how your business Lakiki came about?
I moved over to Indonesia for 2.5 months back in 2015, which was to create my first jewellery range. I was absolutely in my element while over there, I started hand drawing my first jewellery range and that was it!

Is starting a jewellery business something you’ve always wanted to do?
I have always loved and been intrigued by the design aspect of the jewellery I have collected over the years. I started my business because I’ve always been passionate about drawing and being creative, it may have come from my dad who’s a signwriter, I grew up watching him in his workshop. Drawing each design and watching it come to life brings me so much joy.

You design everything yourself, where do you get the inspiration for your pieces? Honestly, it’s a really weird thing, I just draw and draw and draw. I play with shapes, angles, patterns, and motifs. It’s always been that way for me, right after my head hits the pillow, these crazy designs come into my mind. It’s quite annoying actually because I have to have a book next to my bed to quickly draw otherwise I’d forget! My Silversmith shakes his head because my designs can be quite tricky as they’re all made by hand. I’m in love with the contrast of intricate sterling silver detailing around a beautiful simple, raw stone. I’ve always loved being a bit different, so I try to stay true to myself and design pieces that are different too. I can’t tell you how much I LOVE seeing peoples faces light up when they try them on!

Tell us about the stones you use in your creations and what they mean to you?
I use Larimar, Rhodochrosite and Tibetan Turquoise stones. The signature stone we use in the majority of the designs is Larimar as it’s my absolute favourite stone in the whole universe and I feel so connected to it! It’s not only beautiful to look at, but there is only one place you can get it which is in the Caribbean. We go to huge lengths to source the best quality raw Larimar stone, then have it cut down to small Larimar stones to suit every piece.

Where can we find Lakiki Jewellery?
Our pieces are available online and we are also at The Village Markets at Burleigh Heads State School on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of every month! We also have a variety of stores throughout Australia who stock us.

What’s the plan for 2019 for you?
My partner Chris and I are getting married! Then off on our honeymoon to Europe! First stop is Italy (which has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember), and to Greece and a few other places, it’s too hard to decide! Maybe there’ll also be a new Santorini inspired Lakiki range come to life….

Tell us your favourites on the Coast…
Beach: Burleigh Heads
Cafe: Be Somewhere (Burleigh)
Restaurant: Iku Yakitori Bar
How does your weekend usually look: If we’re not at The Village Markets on a Sunday, you will find us at the beach, camping, fishing or having a drink in the afternoon sun somewhere. We are so spoilt for choice on the Gold Coast!

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