Spirit of the South West
Hand sanitiser, gin, and rum; there’s nothing Bunbury’s first distillery haven’t tackled in their first year of operation.
It all started over a few frothies at the local.
“Mike is a man of many ideas. We’d always go out for a few beers at the pub and he’d just keep mentioning this distillery idea. Then, one day, he just said to me ‘do you want to help run it?’".
Rory Binnie, the man on the ground at Cuprum Distillery, had no prior experience in distilling. But, an eagerness to ‘do something good for Bunbury’ saw him take a punt and come on board as the distillery’s operations manager. Along with the owners - his dad, Stewart Binnie, and Mike Honeybell - Binnie spent almost two years educating himself on all aspects of distilling before opening the doors to the venue in 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We went from zero to 100 pretty quickly,” said Binnie, who ended up putting his newly acquired distilling skills to use on producing bulk quantities of hand sanitiser before he even entertained the idea of playing around with juniper and botanicals.
“We had someone from the Bunbury Port come in and ask if we could do hand sanitiser and we were like ‘yeah, we’ll give that a crack’. We made GWN news with our hand sanitiser production
and our heads just got blown off with the demand for it.”
A year into their journey as distillers, and they’ve settled into business as usual: that business being gin.
Cuprum is producing two expressions of the juniperbased spirit - their popular signature dry gin and a raspberry gin - as well as a limited edition truffle gin, two vodkas, and a Cuprum ‘spiced’, which is a small glimpse of barrelled and aged things to come. Despite having their sights set on the ultimate goal of rum production, Cuprum isn’t going to forget where they came from.
“We’re still going to sell the gin and try different stuff with it,” said Binnie. “It’s definitely not like we’re just waiting for the rum and then we’ll ditch the gin. We’re quite proud of how the gins have come out and we’ll still be playing around with what we can do with it.”
As the only distillers within the bounds of Bunbury, the reception to their vision has been more than they could have imagined.
“The feedback from the community has been awesome and I think one thing COVID has taught us is that you can support local - why would you rather buy a gin from over east when you can buy one here that’s just as nice?” said Binnie. “Everyone seems to be pushing this ‘support local’.”
‘Local’ is something that Cuprum are passionate about, and it’s seen them collaborate extensively with other businesses in the area to unify Bunbury’s hospitality scene. They’ve hosted tastings at Mojo’s, worked on signature cocktails with Lost Bills, and even dabbled in ‘yin and gin’ yoga nights with Hot Yoga Bunbury.
Next in the pipeline, and a homage to the land they produce and distil on, is a hyper-local distillate in collaboration with the Wardandi Noongar people.
“We want to do this bushtucker-type gin and have a local Aboriginal artist design the label. Bunbury will have its own bottle of gin that people can be proud of, made from botanicals we forage and find around here.”
IN GOOD COMPANY
A 45-minute drive from Bunbury, nestled in the Collie River Valley, is Harris River Estate. Their mainstay is wine, but keen gin drinkers will be happy to know the venue is also home to a 200 litre gin still. Using the verdelho and viognier grapes grown in the vineyard, Harris River Estate produces four grape-based expressions of gin - Australian Wildflower, Pink Wildflower, Blue Wren, and Kwobidak Boodja gin. The latter a collaboration with The Wilman Co, a local Noongar Wilman company run by Collie healer, Phillip Ugle. It sees six different gins released each year, each showcasing the botanicals flourishing during the different Noongar seasons.
MIX IT UP
Whether you prefer your gin with soda, tonic, or as a base for a great cocktail, Bunbury and surrounds can deliver. Head into town and park up at Lost Bills for a devilishly sweet raspberry, blueberry, lemon, and gin ‘Gene’ cocktail, topped with a touch of fairy floss. Across the road you’ll find Mojo’s who have over 70 gins for you to sample and, around the corner, there’s Brooklyn 32 slinging a fine example of a classic gin bramble. You’ll find Small's Bar in Eaton who proudly rep Bunbury’s Cuprum along with a swathe of other regional gins.