He's reopened a bar, launched a spirits brand, & laid off the drink - Dean Buchanan's big year

Despite Covid, the WA bartender is making big moves, and creative drinks — here's how.

Look around right now, and it doesn’t look good: lockdowns, Covid variants spreading, vaccine hesitancy and conspiracy theories popping up everywhere, TikTok — it can be hard to isolate the good news signal from the noise.

But the signal is there. The world might be in ever-present turmoil, but people keep on living, creating, making. And some bartenders, like Perth’s Dean Buchanan, have found ways to create and launch new projects amid the chaos. Buchanan even launched his own spirits brand with two mates, called Haiver.

“We launched during the very first lockdown in Perth,” Buchanan says. “It was obviously difficult, and the timing wasn’t ideal, but we got a couple of products out there to the market.”

Over the last five years, Buchanan has been making a name for himself in the Australian bar scene with innovative approaches to flavour and cocktail creation, with an aesthetic and a style which, though it shares an aesthetic with like minded big name bartenders such as Re’s Matt Whiley, and Byrdi’s Luke Whearty, is very much becoming his own.

Below, lightly edited and condensed for clarity, we hear from Buchanan about why he gave up alcohol for three months, how his creative process, and how he got Haiver Spirits up and running.

How’s it going over there in Perth?

Apart from the odd lockdown, everything is quite normal. I’m busier than ever, so that’s good.

Yeah, what are you up to these days — it seems like you’ve got a lot going on?

At the start of the year, I wanted to change a couple of things about myself. I started off, almost 12 weeks — three months — without drinking. I tried to really focus on my own mental health and my own business going forward and just wanted to make this year something really, really big for me.

So I had a lot of fun at the start of the year creating a lot of non-alcoholic drinks and exploring that world, which was super cool.

From there I kind of kept the same mentality moving forward throughout the year.

It must sound funny as a bartender, but I barely drink anymore. It’s opened me up to a whole new world, and I guess it’s kind of sparked me again in a more creative way.

It’s allowed me to keep doing all the things I’m doing.

Perth bartender and distiller, Dean Buchanan. Photo: Supplied
Perth bartender and distiller, Dean Buchanan. Photo: Supplied

Do you have more energy, or do you find you’re thinking more clearly?

We’re all in the alcohol industry and I love it, but I just find that, you know, I’m trying to run a business, and the temptation to go out after work and drink, and then have to feel like shit for the next three days...

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