To us, the statement ‘Individually Blended’ is more than just a proposition or a mantra. It’s a celebration of the many differences - in outlook, in skill level or specialisation, and in approach - that exist within our Feels Botanical creative family… From our very own Steve & Blake who, hailing from totally different backgrounds, came together and joined forces to create Feels by blending Eau De Vie with botanicals; to our work with unique cocktail bars, bartenders and chefs to create sensorial experiences, craft cocktail recipes and build emotive stories.
Feels Botanical is about championing that which makes each of us unique, and empowering our people to contribute to the development of this brand in a meaningful and lasting way, every day.
Creativity, as we know, is boundless. What we create is limited only by the boundaries of our imagination. There are a number of Australian bartenders that possess a unique ability to blend experience, creativity and imagination with a deep understanding of application. These are not your typical “bartenders” – these are true Creators, testing the boundaries of liquid creation and producing outcomes that are stunning in complexity or astounding in their delicate simplicity.
Utilizing the versatility of feels Eau de vie, the “Creative Control” series serves to showcase some of Australia’s most sought-after cocktail creators, capturing their process and approach towards liquid creation, whilst also providing us all with some much needed inspo for our own, at home cocktail-creation game.
Name: Dylan Leacey
Where are you Living: Currently living in Byron Bay in the northern rivers, actually 600m from work which is great. Heading home after a wild shift is such a short stumble haha.
What you do: At the moment, my job title is Bar Manager for the Roadhouse Byron Bay.
Where do you work: Roadhouse Byron Bay, NSW
Follow along: You can catch me on instagram @onthe_dl or check out our venue @roadhousebyronbay
Which Feels Botanical products do you range: Right now I'm kinda falling in love with the whole range, so I’ve actually worked them all into the menu.
How did you start out in your industry & how long have you been in it?
Like most I started as a glassy, my experience was in a ridiculous club in Brisbane called Fridays Riverside. Fuck I hated it. After a short stint overseas I landed in Sydney and dived into the world of cocktails. The rest was history I guess.
What are some of the venues you have worked in throughout your career?
Heaps of pubs and clubs, but most notably and very dear to my heart was a venue in Sydney called Charlie Parkers - a pioneering underground speakeasy with an experimental and zero waste approach to drink design. I was there for just over 2 years. Man, I miss that place.
What did you feel in a emotive sense when you first came into contact with the Feels Botanical brand and product range?
I was super interested in the spirit as I've not worked with much Eau de vie at all during my career, plus meeting up with Blake to discuss its applications is always fun and we get along so well. It’s evident how much thought and hard work has gone into creating feels and as a result, so much of his personality shines through the product and that’s something I can really connect with.
What were the synergies with the Feels brand and your venue?
The Roadhouse Bar program focuses on sustainability as we try to approach at least a zero waste cocktail program. Feels shares this same vision and I think with more time and exposure - the entire hospitality sector should follow suit.
How and why did you want to utilise Feels as a product offering to your clientele?
We try to offer something different, 8/10 guests (ballpark) aren't even aware of what an Eau de vie is. Working with feels we can offer them something different and new that hopefully tastes good enough to remember.
Tell us about the place you tap into when you work on bringing to life a drink within your venue?
To be honest I'm limited by the facilities and space that the Roadhouse has to offer but this has taught me so much about utilizing simplicity and being resourceful with what we have. When creating drink concoctions for our list I try to focus on the quality of the produce, as well as not being afraid to ask for help from my team. We have so many talented chefs and FOH staff, each with their own palate and thoughts.
During your creative process, what role does feeling and logic play? Is one more important than the other?
Feeling is a massive one. Like mainly how the drink feels in my mouth and in my belly. If it achieves a smile, that's a green light. More seriously though, up until now logic has played a very little role in my drink creation. As there should really be no limits. However operating a smaller scale bar with smaller margins, logically speaking. Money doesn't actually grow on trees. I absolutely think that feeling is far more important than logic.
How has working on this project inspired, challenged and pushed your approach to your work?
This project has been a breath of fresh air honestly, working closely with the feels crew and seeing how like minded we are has been super inspiring for me. Definitely it's always a challenge to create something that people will respond to positively but so far so good!
We have now set some new goals for the next couple of months so that’s always a great drive for work. Plus, thankfully I have lots of support which is definitely critical to the success of our efforts.
Left: Blake / Right: Dylan
Is there a person or artist(s) that first inspired you?
I try to draw energetic inspiration from everyone around me, however a very good friend of mine Giacomo Franceschi who operates out of Sydney has always pushed me to think laterally and more sustainably. He’s a wonderful friend and an epic mentor. If you’re ever in Sydney, swing by Charlie Parkers and say hi for me.
When do you feel most creative...
Late night for sure, maybe after a bottle of wine or two haha. Being semi-nocturnal, I think my brain actually only turns on around 5pm usually when service starts. Fuck I need a holiday….
Where do you look for inspiration…(this can be industries or specific references)
Like I said it can really come from anything and everything, but it definitely comes in waves. Seeing my friends succeed in whatever industry always tends to inspire drive from me. My housemate is a real estate agent and even he (hilariously) puts good ideas in my brain from time to time.
When I’m feeling burnt out, I wind down and reset by…
I spend a great deal of time in nature. Living in the Byron Shire I am definitely geographically privileged and have unlimited opportunities to do so. For that I'm grateful.
I think here (with landmarks like the Cape Byron Lighthouse) is a great place for me to acknowledge the traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander owners of the land on which I can spend this time being in nature and working. The Arakwal people, The Minjungbal people and the Widjabul people of the Bundjalung Nation, and pay my respect to elders past, present and emerging.
My favourite way to drink Feels is…
When I’m drinking a Feels Bask Tommy's margarita, I set the mood with this song:
I'm setting the mood with some Peggy Gou. oooft
The person (dead or alive) I’d most like to drink it with…
I’d love to drink some drinks with Anthony Bourdain - i never knew him, but man i miss him.
What you may not know about me…
I’d like to be the first person in space drinking a martini. Thank you and goodnight.
Advice to those wanting to get into your field:
Find a city, find their best cocktail bars and just go chat to the people in them. Chances are if you like to drink you’ll accidentally end up in hospo. And get yourself a cocktail shaker.
Photographer: Jess Kearney