Surry Hills’ leafy Bourke Street is now home to Sydney’s only dedicated craft rum distillery, Brix Distillers. The brains behind the neighbourhood’s latest addition are co-founders Damien Barrow, James Christopher and Siddharth Soin, who also run Cammeray’s The Public.
For them, distilling rum started out as a pet project until they realised there was a gap in the market. “We know Tasmania has a strong foothold in whiskey and there are lots of strong gin producers, but no one is really doing rum,” says Barrow.
Former Archie Rose Distillery head distiller Shane Casey has been recruited to oversee the distilling of Brix’s core range – White, Gold, and Spiced – which will eventually expand to include batch rums.
“There used to be quite a strong rum distilling presence in Australia and we want to bring that back,” Casey says.
In fact, Sydney was built on rum. Forty-five thousand gallons of the stuff was paid to contractors to construct the general hospital on Macquarie Street, or what was colloquially called the “Rum Hospital”. (The hospital south wing is now the Mint, and the north wing is the NSW Parliament House.) In Sydney’s early colonial days the spirit was used as currency, and the only time the Australian government has been overthrown by a military coup (in 1808) is an event now called the “Rum Rebellion” because the corps responsible were heavily involved in the rum trade.
Fast forward to 2018 and rum production and exchange is conducted in vastly more sophisticated surrounds. Brix is housed in a space formerly used as storage by St Mary’s Cathedral, and it’s warm, modern and industrial. It features a 1200-litre copper still, eight 1000-litre fermentation tanks, plenty of polished concrete, and pops of colour from the wall art by local artist Nico Nicoson.
The distilling process can be admired from the open bar on the ground floor or the intimate barrelling room on the mezzanine.
In addition to serving Brix’s core range, the bar is stocked with over 150 top-shelf rum labels from around the world, such as El Dorado and Chairman’s Reserve. “They’re my really exciting shelves,” says bar manager Doug Laming (ex The Smoking Panda and Mr G's).
Sample the rums as a flight or in cocktails such as Making Love at Midnight, Brix’s take on a traditional Pina Colada. A rum trolley will roam the venue every night on the hour to encourage people to sample and learn about the range. “We’re also focused on re-educating people about rum because there’s usually a stigma with [it],” Casey says.
The food draws on South American flavours by Colombian chef Ivan Sanchez, who has worked in Bodega and Porteno. There are dishes such as handmade arepas (corn flatbreads) filled with avocado, salad, chimichurri and a choice of protein including slow-cooked lamb shoulder or fried eggplant and crisp chickpeas. Other selections include spiced rum-glazed lamb ribs or jerk pork belly with chickpea puree and chimichurri.
Brix also run craft rum masterclasses and the chance to purchase your own 20-litre rum barrel, which they will help craft, distil and eventually bottle.
352 Bourke Street, Surry Hills
Mon to Sat 12pm–midnight
This article first appeared on Broadsheet on August 22, 2018. Menu items may have changed since publication.