There are exciting spirits being crafted on Queensland’s central coast north of Brisbane, from places like Caloundra up to Noosa, and in the beautiful hinterland several new distilleries have emerged recently.
For a State that has been renowned for it’s rum forever, there is a new generation of self-taught distillers who are taking their inspiration from land and sea, and taking an innovative approach to flavours and gin production.
Launching just in time for a COVID pandemic, state border closures and well, everything else that 2021 had to offer, Kirra Daley and Steve Grace opened Beachtree Distilling Co, Australia’s only First Nations-owned-and-operated distillery, in Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast.
With everything on the line, they entered the World Gin Awards and won gold with their first gin within a few months of opening.
I had the pleasure of visiting their distillery a few months ago on a short trip to that part of the world, and their colourful distillery is hard to miss with it’s fantastic mural by a local artist that tells the story of the couple and the evolution of the business in full colour.
Inspired and respectful of their Indigenous culture, the couple’s spirits are crafted sustainably and culturally responsibly, and they have a deep commitment to craft gins that are produced using local ingredients. You can visit the distillery for tastings, just a few minutes drive from down town Caloundra, and in a short time, with pandemic restrictions now lifted, it has become a hub for local business networking and other events that speaks also to their passion to give back to their community as they grow the business.
Partly as a result of the business pressures the pandemic inflicted on distillers in Queensland, the State government changed the regulations in March 2021 which enabled distillers, like those in the other States + Territories to sell online and on site, offer tastings etc, just in the nick of time for the new distillery.
Time to have a chat with co-founder, Kirra.
What is the inspiration behind the gins and the brand generally?
Beachtree Distilling Co. was born out of our love for this country, and our passion for creating tasty, high-quality spirits. We use ethical and sustainable practices while honouring our traditions and heritage. The brand came together through passion, a knowledge of the food and health industries and Steve’s unique talent in electrotechnology and engineering.
Do you have a particular philosophy in crafting your spirits?
We believe our journey starts with ancient knowledge passed down through generations and is amplified by innovative science and engineering.
We seek to create small-batch, handcrafted artisan products that transport consumers across our great Australian landscapes. Our mission is to follow our ancestors by using ethical and sustainable methods to source and produce world-class products.
Each Beachtree Distilling Co. product tells our story through its aromatic botanicals.
When did you know you nailed the recipe of a particular spirit?
For the Organic Koala Gin, it was all about the aromas and taste. We were looking for well-balanced flavours and an amazing pure spirit – we wanted it to exude the Australian bush. We love how it tastes on the tongue and the multi-level complexities.
The Koala Gin is described as having good levels of flavour. On the palate, it has a lot of elements of the traditional classic profile, but with extra weight, sweetness and roundness. Traditional juniper berries are balanced with the tasting notes of lemon myrtle, cinnamon and vanilla.
You seem to have a lovely soft spot for native animals, what’s that about?
Wow, there is a really LONG answer to that question, but the simple answer is that they represent who we are as Australians, as a brand and as a culture.
The short version would be to say: I grew up on a farm, riding dirt bikes and working the land. My mother’s side of the family were always into fresh, wholesome produce and produced premium quality cheeses, butter and more.
My father, a little later on, decided he would try his hand at cattle farming; 40 years ago, it was a growing industry in the area. Let’s just say he was the worst cattle farmer in the region – he named his cows and they became part of the family to the point we became a home for wayward animals. Cows, horses, dogs and cats – if they couldn’t be housed, they came and lived on the farm. Eventually, to continue his love of farming, he started growing bush botanicals and to this day he continues to battle the elements of flood and heat to produce amazing quality Australian grown produce. Mum continues to house wayward animals.
Growing up near Byron Bay and the hinterlands, we were always aware of the abundance of flora and fauna in the area. But we were also aware of how quickly the elements of heavy rain, fire or drought could quickly affect their natural environment.
This is how the One Bottle One Tree program became established. For every 500 ml bottle sold, we arrange for the planting of a tree. Currently, the program supports one farmer to plant finger limes and a nursery to help rejuvenate bushland for koalas. We are all about promoting Australia’s native diversity.
A saying I heard growing up was: “We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love … and then we return home.”
As a business will continue to give back, it’s the only way forward.
On my visit you mentioned you capture rain water and use a cane spirit as your base, was that important to you?
Despite the name, rain constantly falls on the Sunshine Coast. And considering we use organically grown, native or wild-harvested ingredients,what would be better than pairing it with the bountiful supply of fresh, pure rainwater? Untouched by other elements, rainwater is the purest form of water.
Like the way organic ingredients remain untouched by pesticides and chemicals, rainwater remains untouched by other elements. The purity is a good starting point for us, but the water itself still goes through a lengthy filtration process before combining with our delicious organic and native botanicals to make our gin or vodka.
And yes, at Beachtree Distilling Co., we boast a base spirit made from certified organically grown sugar cane. This ensures no pesticides or chemicals are used and the sugar cane is harvested with sustainable practices. We believe this is not only kinder to your body and the land, but it creates a cleaner, crisp and smoother spirit.
How do you recommend people enjoy your spirits?
The Organic Tiger Quoll Vodka is a pure organic vodka derived from a sugar-cane base. With no wheat or grains, it has its unique little characteristics to its flavour. Great in a cocktail to kick off the evening! Or just go classic with some soda and lime.
The Organic Koala Gin is a lemon myrtle gin. A versatile aromatic gin with its delicious aromatic scent and flavour is a definite favourite. Try it neatly over ice, or with tonic and cucumber or lime. Or if you want something a little different, it goes great with ginger beer and lime!
The Organic Quokka Gin is berry-delicious. This gin contains rosella and mountain pepperberry and has a delicate, subtle exotic sweetness. It’s refreshing and delightful. Try it neatly over ice or with a Mediterranean tonic and a slice of blood orange. And if you want it sweeter, try it with passionfruit soft drink and pineapple juice, yummo!
How do you go about creating spirits that are environmentally sustainable?
This would also be a long answer, so let me list 4 things for you.
- Use organic, native or wild harvested ingredients.
- Consider your packaging.
- Minimise energy production whilst maximising output – made easier through our master distiller’s 20 years of experience in mechanical and electrotechnology.
- We Plant trees –Our One Bottle, One Tree program: for every 500 ml bottle we sell, we arrange for the planting of a tree.
You both came from, like most distillers in Australia, from a completely different background, and debuted during a pandemic no less! Can you share the story of when you found out you’d won your first international award?
It was the biggest surprise! I was working on my computer – It was early in the morning, about 1am, when the email come through saying we won GOLD for both the Organic Quokka Gin and the Organic Koala Gin at the World Gin Awards. Initially, I presumed it was spam and was about to delete it but thought I would just check the London website. When our gins appeared on the World Gin Awards website we were both thrilled.
Tasting Notes: Organic Koala Gin
- Nose: Fresh and bright lemon citrus, a hint of spice from the cinnamon.
- Neat: Very forward on the palette, with a crisp and dry finish, the lime and lemon myrtle clearly evident.
- On Ice / Mixer: This opens things up nicely, I tried Kirra’s suggestion (see above) with lime and dry ginger and this is very delicious. I also enjoyed it on ice with soda, and a lemon peel and that was quite refreshing too.
Tasting Notes: Organic Quokka Gin
- Nose: This gin is quite subtle on the nose, slightly warmer than it’s sister gin, and no spirit volatility.
- Neat: This offers a rich and complex experiment with the pepper forward, and the mouthfeel from the cane spirit base (no hint of sweetness) is rounded and soft, again quite forward on the palette over all.
- One Ice / Mixer: This works very well as a G+T and you could get adventurous with your garnish I suggest, even raspberries or strawberries with some cracked pepper.
- Martini: Believe it or not, served very chilled with a slice of lemon you could sip this gin and easily imagine it as a Martini! But it works nicely with a touch of either Regal Rogue’s Daring Dry Vermouth too.
The Take Home
For a couple who debuted their new business during the most challenging of times, with a vision to create sustainably produced, high quality spirits inspired and made from the local ecosystem, that takes some vision, passion and a real belief in yourself. There is something Grand Designs about this venture, real ambition and a commitment to excellence that was evident from the get-go.
From the lovely packaging, engagement with local traditional owners to source their botanicals, to the unique distillation and rainwater harvesting process, from the use of local sugar cane to create the base spirit, the attention to detail and innovation is on everything they touch.
All this adds up to spirits that are all excellent, well thought through in their design, the cane sugar spirit bringing a lovely mouthfeel to support the complex botanicals in the flavour profile making for a very harmonious sipping experience. The gins are very on-point in the way they stand up on their own to enjoy neat over ice, or a splash of soda, no need to hide them behind a mixer.
- You can purchase online here or through a select number of stores in Queensland and Canberra.
- RRP is AUD $75 per 500ml bottle.
- ABV: 42%
- Website: https://beachtree.com.au/
Disclaimer: this review is of unsolicited samples provided by the makers, opinions expressed regarding the product are my own.