A Dream Come True
The genesis of this gin goes back to 2012, when we first began working with Bruno Dann (an elder of the Nyul Nyul tribe) on a variety of projects around the Twin Lakes Cultural Park, of which Bruno is custodian and Traditional Owner. Situated about three hours outside of Broome in Western Australia, we’ve worked with the local community to establish ecotourism endeavours, help bring funding to the Dreamtime Dancers Project and bring to market local native bush foods such as Gubinge, Wild Lemongrass and Jilungin. Through regular trips to the Kimberley, we became good friends and trusted partners with Bruno, his brother Robert and his partner Marion. Back then The Cannabis Company was little more than a dream, but when we began developing our range back in 2017, we finally began to fulfil our desire to create a truly Australian spirit whichall Australians could be proud of.
Last year, we began an arduous R&D process. Initially, the desire was to create a gin based on Gubinge, as this had formed the basis of our initial meetings back in 2012. Unfortunately it didn’t work as we’d hoped – distillation is a game of alchemy, and although early trials proved promising, we couldn’t arrive at a gin of the requisite quality. Back to the drawing board. Further roots, berries, grasses, bushes, trees and spices were selected by Bruno in Western Australia, sent to us here in Melbourne for testing, and subsequently trialled as a botanical at our distillery in Healesville. Meanwhile, we made a breakthrough with our other research – The Myrcene Hemp Gin was the result. Little did we know that an even better gin was just around the corner…
The breakthrough arrived when our terpene research came to fruition – The Myrcene went viral, selling out its first release in three days. Around the same time, we realised that the combination of Jilungin Dreaming Tea (Terminalia canescens) with the terpene Limonene had strong potential. Further testing was carried out, the recipe was tweaked and Bruno was consulted. It appeared that unseen forces had – once again – been guiding our hand. Unbeknownst to us, our friends in The Kimberley had begun work researching Jilungin together with The University of Queensland. The results were impressive – Jilungin was demonstrated to contain over 30% more antioxidants than Green Tea. What’s more, it was showing strong anti-anxiety properties. Wild Lemongrass (another of Bruno’s wild-harvested native Australian plants) showed great promise as a botanical, and we subsequently discovered that Griffith University in New South Wales has confirmed that Native Lemongrass is comparable to aspirin in its effectiveness at treating headaches and inflammation.
Even more interestingly, the cannabis terpene which best matched Jilungin and Native Lemongrass in terms of chemical interaction, flavour and effect on mood was Limonene, which can also be found in juniper, mint, pine and rosemary. Recent years have seen much research into Limonene’s value as an antibacterial, anticancer agent, antidepressant, anxiolytic and immunostimulant. Trials are currently underway using Limonene to treat anxiety and depression, while previous tests carried out using Limonene led to participants reporting an increase in everything from attention and mental focus to libido and wellbeing. Common in many strains of cannabis, Limonene can also provide stress relief, while digestive issues may be improved through its potent antifungal effects. It also boasts powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The research continues, and we expect new findings around both Limonene and Jilungin to soon be published.
These results were the perfect case of serendipity; we had already been using Jilungin Dreaming Tea for years ourselves due to its wonderful effects. It appears to be an adaptogen, promoting both mental stimulation and relaxation, encouraging delta sleep waves and resulting in interesting and instructionary dreams, which has gained it something of a shamanic reputation.
“We drink it regularly and it works like a tonic on the body” says Marion, regarding Jilungin’s effects. “It alkalizes the system, gives us energy during daylight and wonderful sleeps at night. We harvest the long leaf variety which is a lovely golden colour and works as an elixir or general tonic, the colour speaks for itself! There have also been some results for people who suffer from insomnia and migraine headaches. The sap or gim is the most potent medicine and Nyul Nyul people suck it like lollies. It is the life blood of the plant and traditionally highly prized for its deep healing abilities. It is a Terminalia, the same as the Gubinge tree, and only grows in the top end of Australia. We are at the educational stage with use, as far as we know Bruno holds the knowledge and he wants to pass his knowledge on now. This is the purpose of Twin Lakes Cultural Park – to share knowledge. Twin Lakes is a very rich area for Jilungin, it doesn't grow everywhere on the Dampier Peninsula. We need to train people how to harvest it without damaging the plants. We are working very hard to save trees as they are fire prone so a lot of our time whilst harvesting is also spent restoring the forest. We'll be heading out again tomorrow to harvest more Jilungin. This is Jilungin season now. We follow Nyul Nyul's six seasons at Twin Lakes."
Just What Do You Think You’re Doing?
As with almost everything around The Cannabis Co, when we showed people The Jilungin they freaked out. “You can’t sell alcohol with Aboriginal artwork! You can’t even make alcohol with Indigenous Australian ingredients, it’s exploitative, and probably unethical! And you‘re going to release it on Invasion Day weekend? ARE YOU CRAZY!?”.
Firstly, yes we are crazy. We regularly do what other people say is impossible.
Secondly, none of the people making these criticisms were from Australia’s First Peoples. No offence, but the Australian Government doesn’t have a strong track record around telling Aboriginal people what’s okay and what isn’t okay. When we spoke to our Aboriginal friends and partners, they were unanimously supportive, excited and proud of the project.
We believe that if we’re ever to evolve beyond Australia’s horrible history, it’s only going to happen by working hand-in-hand with Australia’s First Peoples. History is a journey. It is only through courage and opening ourselves up to criticism that we can ever hope to move forward, and we welcome your comments.
Greenwashing? No Thanks
The world of today is more cynical than ever. In a country which has historically taken a ruthlessly cynical approach to its First Peoples, we were keenly aware of how to sensitively approach a potentially divisive product. This required a lot of soul-searching; were we merely convincing ourselves of morally dubious behaviour in order to achieve profitable commercial outcomes? Did we really want to create a product that represented Australia in a way we had never seen before, or were we just trying to make money? We spent a lot of time thinking and talking. We consulted everyone we thought would have something to say, from conservative white Australians in their seventies to anarchic brown Australians in their teens. Gradually, we uncovered our true feelings: power with, not power over. Provided we worked hand-in-hand with our Aboriginal partners every step of the way, we felt we could sleep easy at night, confident that our motivations were honourable. For decades we’ve been striving to develop the skills and experience which allows us to contribute to a better world through healing, knowledge and understanding. We go deep with this, and we’ll be blogging about it extensively in the future.
50% Of Profits Go Back To The Land
We realised that the only way we could be taken seriously was to follow the old saying: put your money where your mouth is. We did the maths, figured out the costs and consulted with Bruno and Marion. Our initial thoughts were to make a donation to Native Title Claims. But our partners in The Kimberley had a better idea.
Since 2001, Bruno has been Chairperson of Manowan Aboriginal Corporation, named in honour of the country that his grandfather's left for him. It was Bruno’s work and efforts to commercialise his community’s wildcrafted produce that initially brought us into contact. Through healing and restoring his culture and country, Bruno has brought opportunities of learning and employment to many members of the Nyul Nyul community who we subsequently became friends with. Over the past two decades Bruno and Marion (together with their children and community) have had a major impact on the economy and ecology of the area around Broome and Beagle Bay.
In the manner of Bruce Pascoe’s pioneering work revising the racist history of Australia which led to the Terra Nullis Myth, Bruno has successfully rehabilitated the land out on the Dampier Peninsula north of Broome. Using thousand-year-old techniques learned from his Grandfathers, Bruno’s work has resulted in record yields of wild-harvested bush tucker which is bringing not just money but hope and pride to an area which has long suffered from astounding levels of deprivation. By removing invasive and destructive species of plant life from his traditional land, meanwhile using backburning techniques to prevent the spread of destructive wildfire, Bruno has promoted the return of native flora and fauna which had not been seen in decades. To walk through country with Bruno is to separate the veil from past and present; in today’s world such wisdom is in low supply. He is a walking encyclopedia, a repository of knowledge millennia in the making.
The Nyul Nyul Rangers
Bruno’s work has inspired other Aboriginal groups in the area, and he recently began working with Albert Wiggan and The Nyul Nyul Rangers to share knowledge of traditional land management techniques. Some groups had their own knowledge to share, while others had regrettably seen this wisdom disappear with their older generations. Funding is a challenge, and so we realised that this was where the profits from Jilungin Dreaming Hemp Gin could contribute the most – through education and promotion of ancient Indigenous land management techniques. Something we learnt on a trip to country on the Dampier Peninsula in 2015 was a beautiful sentiment around the role we humans play in the life of the land. The European mindset tends to regard the land as part of oneself – “the land I am from and where I grew up is a part of me, through my experiences, memories, the food I eat and water I drink”. The Indigenous Australian approach is different – “I am a part of the land I am from and I contribute to the health of this land”. It’s a subtle distinction, but an important one – Europeans see themselves at the heart of the equation. Indigenous Australians see the land at the heart of the equation; it was there long before we were here and will continue to be there long after.
It is in this spirit that we honour the land by pledging 50% of the profits from this first release of The Jilungin into the care of our trusted partners Bruno & Marion for use in promoting education around traditional land management techniques. This will take the form of building a new base camp and kitchen for Winawarl Burr Traditional Owners in collaboration with the Nyul Nyul Rangers out in Twin Lakes Cultural Park, used as a venue for workshops on land & fire management. The project will incorporate the Nyul Nyul Twin Lakes Heritage Track, to allow the sharing of bush food and medicine knowledge. The plan is to open the old walking track from Beagle Bay to Winawarl. Nyul Nyul Rangers already do Heritage tours in Beagle Bay, but this will mean that Twin Lakes becomes part of the tour through to Winawarl, in Dann families territory.
"I am very grateful and happy with The Canna Co and wish them well with the release of Jilungin Dreaming Hemp Gin. They made the effort to come all the way out to my country to meet me some years ago and I told my story and I shared a bit of my knowledge of my land with him. I am very proud of what he has done with Jilungin for me and what he has achieved."
– Bruno Dann, Winawarl Burr, Nyul Nyul Elder, Dampier Peninsula
The Spirit Of Australia
We worked closely with young artist Jarrod Stains to find an approach which could accurately represent the coming together of ancient Indigenous wisdom and our modern approach to cannabis. It was essential to us that we represent Aboriginal Australia on its own terms, using our platform to bring light to Jarrod’s talent, utilising his talent to authentically represent the spirit of Australia.
Change The Date
We unequivocally support the Change The Date campaign. Wise up, Australia – let’s celebrate this land in a way we can all be proud of.
Read more on the Gin Range