July 26, 2017
It was just one of those lightbulb moments. Years in the renewables industry, late nights all around the globe, ending the day sipping on a glass of fine rum, it all led me here to a place I spent a lot of my childhood. It was never part of the plan but, looking back now, it all makes perfect sense that my family and I would end up here in Byron Bay with a farm and a distillery.
In 2014, I was the new CEO of a 100% renewable power generation business in the Northern Rivers region. A little-known fact is that half of all of the local region’s power is actually delivered by these local power stations that area adjacent to the farmer owned sugar mills.
Molasses is the by-product of refining sugarcane and I came to understand that the majority of it was being used for cattle feed. Rum is distilled from molasses – and I really liked rum. And there it was – the defining lightbulb moment.
Moving back to the region where I spent so many weekends and holidays of my childhood and being able to raise our family in a more natural environment, had long since been a regular topic of conversation. We wanted a farm and plenty of land, where our three children could learn about the important things, life’s basics, how to grow and nurture produce, how to be self-sufficient, and be part of a broader community. Helen shared my excitement and, the concept grew from just a farm to creating a micro-distillery too.
The more we talked about it, the more the concept grew. We wanted to have an authentic, productive farm, operated with integrity, growing our own produce using the biological agriculture method, respectful of the environment and, importantly, be sustainable.
The earliest record of the Restall family in Byron Shire dates back to 1897 when Jack Restall was the local butcher in Billinudgel. Though it was a fact we didn’t discover until recently, it explains why we’ve always had a deep sense affinity and connection with the area.
After much searching, we eventually found a property which offered everything we needed to realise our dream.
We’ve welcomed the support and expertise of the previous owners of the farm, the Giles family, to farm the land – Eric and Kay Giles as well as that of agronomist, Mike McCosker, a fourth-generation farmer himself. Both are passionate about healthy soil and good quality food and both have been an inspiration and source of great knowledge to our family.
These mentors share our belief that all agricultural issues start in the soil. It is the way that soil is managed that has the most impact in dealing with many climatic and environmental problems. Conventional agriculture thinks of plant nutrition in chemical terms. Conventional farming techniques relies on pesticides to sterilise the soil and then the application of nutrients and minerals to feed and nourish the plants. However there is another age old farming method that delivers well-balanced plant nutrition without the excessive use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers which is called biodynamic farming. Biodynamic farming relies on the biological activity of microbes such as bacteria and fungi living in soils, water and on the plant , to create a sustainable ecosystems including farms.
When we manage the land with microbes in mind, the outcomes are the best we can get from a disturbed natural system. Microbes play a central role in the decomposition and recycling of energy and nutrients held within organic matter. Microbes can be described as the ‘engine room’ of the soil.
Each paddock and land use have a specific nutrient requirement. Historically these would have been met using mining or petrochemical industry derived fertilisers. However, Lord Byron Distillery also creates a naturally derived liquid fertiliser that can be used on the farm, as well as sold to other farms and gardeners.
In this way, our liquid fertiliser can be used to service all of our farm’s needs, removing reliance on the mining and petrochemical industries to source the necessary nutrients.
Australian Bush Lemons also grow wild on our farm. These lemons are not smooth like shop-bought lemons and are a reflection of the country they are grown in – a true rough diamond of Australia. On a family holiday in Italy when we discovered the likeness our bush lemons had to the Italian variety, which gave us the idea to use our bush lemons as the flavour base for our Limoncello. Being proud Australians, we think they taste better than the softer Italian lemon varieties, creating a uniquely Australian Limoncello.
We are currently rehabilitating small areas on our farm that have been taken over by Camphor Laurel, an introduced invasive weed that is prevalent right across this region. Like many other areas in Australia, farming in Byron Bay has declined over a number of years and the Camphor Laurel has taken over. Removing Camphor Laurel takes time and the family is sympathetically rehabilitating small areas of the farm back to its prior agricultural productivity again.
October 15, 2020
From paddock to bottle, Lord Byron Distillery take an artisanal approach to distilling. Rather than taking a neutral base spirit and adjusting it with artificial flavours and colours, , we create our spirits using time-honoured artisan techniques which allow natural flavour and character to shine through.
4 Banksia Drive, Byron Bay NSW 2481
+612 8646 4901
100% Renewable Energy. Zero Waste.
Licence Number: LIQW88001501
In Australia, it is illegal to sell or supply alcohol to, or to obtain alcohol on behalf of, a person under the age of 18 years