I Lived Out My ‘Yellowstone’ Fantasies In Byron Bay With One Of America’s Great Bourbons

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I Lived Out My ‘Yellowstone’ Fantasies In Byron Bay With One Of America’s Great Bourbons

Image: Kate Holmes @kateholmesphotographer

BYRON BAY – Just a short drive away from Australia’s iconic beachy paradise, sits one of the country’s most sought-after retreats; a rustic ranch that speaks to Australia’s serial city-dwellers hoping to escape the monotony of the 9-5 and live out their many Yellowstone fantasies.

We caught an early flight out of Sydney Airport and arrived in Ballina before my morning cup of coffee could even get cold, before being whisked away to what felt like a secret rural getaway tucked away in the heart of Byron’s hinterland.

Welcome to Sun Ranch, home for the next two days. Image: Kate Holmes @kateholmesphotographer

Located over 55 acres, Sun Ranch is a sprawling estate reminiscent of the Californian ranch houses of the super-chic 1970s era. Think red-washed walls and vintage record players; sunken velvet loungers and upcycled wood panelling.

Each room in the main building is uniquely designed with bold and warming colours, taking inspiration from Mexican and Spanish fincas, whilst six timber cabins sit amongst the estate’s rolling hills that enjoy frequent visits from the venue’s neighbouring band of horses.

It’s the kind of place that you’d find flicking through a thick coffee table book and imagine yourself booking for your entire group of mates for a weekend away from the city, acting out a scene from Paramount’s cowboy-core Yellowstone series or heavily colour-graded Tarantino flick.

Every room reminded me of a scene from a Quentin Tarantino movie. Image: Kate Holmes @kateholmesphotographer

Checking into my poolside suite, aptly named Wam Bam, I could have been forgiven for forgetting I was actually meant to be working as I attempted to don my generously gifted Akubra cowboy hat and Carhartt in the room’s full-length mirror. “You’re a long way from South London,” I thought as I loosely tied a bandana around my neck.

After some downtime enjoying the hotel’s many amenities such as the private pool at the foot of the terrace, an ice bath and a (much-needed) sauna, I emerged from my Rambler Pool Room in my blue denim jeans trying my best to channel my inner Rip Wheeler.

But I was quickly told to return my hat as I’d instead need a helmet to start one of the day’s many activities: horse riding through the rolling hills of Byron’s hinterland… not very Rip, then.

The day promised a perfect marriage of adventure and luxury; Horse riding was just the beginning. But it was, arguably, the best way for a team of journalists to celebrate the Australian launch of one of the world’s premier bourbon distilleries as the sun inevitably started to set on our first day.

Trying to remember all the YouTube videos I watched in the Uber. Image: Kate Holmes @kateholmesphotographer

Launched in 1872, Yellowstone Bourbon holds the distinction of being the third-oldest bourbon distillery in history and even crafted its first-ever bourbon the same year Yellowstone was designated America’s first national park.

It has changed hands a few times since then, but has since flourished under the experienced and watchful eye of seventh-generation distiller Stephen Beam – yes, the great-great-grandson of Minor Case Beam, the eldest son of Joseph M. Beam, of Kentucky’s legendary whiskey-producing Beam family.

“Yellowstone Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey has been hand-picked and distilled by Stephen Beam, the 7th Generation Master Distiller, and is a marriage of two rye mash bill Kentucky straight bourbon whiskies, one aged four years and the other aged seven years,” Greg Mefford, Managing Director of Luxco International, tells DMARGE over our first taste of the brand’s signature release.

“Stephen’s goal, as his family’s modern-day steward of the Yellowstone brand, is to create a well-rounded bourbon — a spicy rye taste at first rounding out with caramel notes and a rich, brown sugar finish that highlights Kentucky tradition.”

Yellowstone Bourbon is one of America’s great bourbons. Image: Kate Holmes @kateholmesphotographer
Image: Kate Holmes @kateholmesphotographer

Yellowstone Bourbon can trace its roots back two centuries to the birthplace of American-made bourbon renowned the world over and its origins are deeply rooted in the traditions of craftsmanship. The first bottle of bourbon to leave the distillery was produced by Beam’s great-great-grandfather Joseph Washington Dant, a pioneer in the bourbon industry, using a unique limestone spring water source exclusive to the region that gave the bourbon its distinctive smoothness.

Today’s dram uses locally sourced Kentucky grains – which the whiskey heads out there will know is at least 51% corn to qualify for American Bourbon – which are fermented using original family yeast strands dating back to the pre-prohibition era.

It’s then distilled with an alembic copper pot still located in the family’s Limestone Branch Distillery, using a recipe that was recovered from Stephen Beam and his brother Paul’s grandfather’s old notebook, before being aged in newly charred American oak barrels for that signature Bourbon flavour profile. The result is a clean, full-bodied spirit that has been stocked on the shelves for more than 150 years.

“Stephen Beam, Yellowstone Bourbon’s Master Distiller, has a long whiskey lineage, stemming back to his great, great grandfather,” Greg continued.

“And for every generation since, whiskey hasn’t been a business, but a calling. Yellowstone Bourbon represents the pinnacle of that rich heritage – which is why Stephen’s guidance is invaluable to every Yellowstone bourbon mash we cook, and every bottle we produce.”

Our Trailblazer Toddys were a resounding success for a first attempt. Image: Kate Holmes @kateholmesphotographer

Our first taste of Yellowstone was served neat in a crystal glass before we then attempted to mix our own Trailblazer Toddy, a warm long drink with hints of citrus and honey.

For Greg, it wasn’t particularly important how we chose to drink Yellowstone – drinking alcohol is a pleasure that’s unique to all of us and should be enjoyed accordingly. Although he did recommend we find “a beautiful sunset, with good friends and a crackling fire pit nearby.”

The rich, full-bodied flavour of Yellowstone Bourbon’s iconic release is a tribute to the pure, untamed landscapes that inspired its creation. For more than 152 years, the brand has enjoyed a deep connection to the national park from which it gets its name and not from a particular cowboy TV show… although Greg says it doesn’t hurt.

“Today, Yellowstone Bourbon continues to commemorate this heritage through our commitment to the protection of public lands as one of the largest corporate partner contributors having contributed since 2018 over $750,0000 to national park protection,” Greg revealed.

One too many nightcaps… Image: Kate Holmes @kateholmesphotographer

After some many Yellowstone Bourbons enjoyed over a fire-cooked meal, our incredible hosts at Sun Ranch provided the perfect evening to celebrate not only the launch of Yellowstone Bourbon in Australia but also the enduring legacy of the brand, and the Beam family’s remarkable contribution to an enduring American tradition.

I’d love to say we ended there, sharing a toast before heading off to our rooms at a reasonable hour, but when you have one of the state’s best hotels and a great American whiskey to savour, it’s hard to think of a better way to spend it than to keep the Yellowstone fantasy playing out, if only for a few hours longer.