Hear the Queensland city of Bundaberg mentioned in any conversation and chances are your mind will drift straight to alcohol. And not just any alcohol but rum to be precise. If you didn’t already know, Bundaberg is famous around the world for the rum it produces. So on our recent visit to Bundaberg, the home of Bundy Rum – the Bundaberg Rum Distillery Tour was number one on our list of things to do.
Bundaberg Rum was established in 1888 by seven enterprising men who thought that they could do something better with the tonnes of molasses produced other than tipping it out. Australia already had a taste for rum so when the first batch was ready a year later it was an instant success.
Bundaberg Rum managed to survive two devastating fires. One in 1907 and the second in 1936. This fire completely destroys the distillery. It is rebuilt and reopens three years later in 1939. It still sits on the same site today.
You may wonder how a polar bear came to be the symbolic icon of Bundaberg Rum? It was all thought up by Bundaberg Rum’s marketing genius, Sam McMahon. McMahon means ‘Son of Bear’ in Irish. He also came up with the Bundaberg Rum’s unique square bottle design!
Bundaberg Rum has a brand new museum area which showcases the history of Bundaberg Rum. Located within a retired ‘Bondstore’, each section of the museum is housed in a 75,000 litre vat. So you are literally standing inside a giant empty vat that once held rum.
I have to say that this is probably one of the best museum displays that I have seen anywhere. It was unique, very well laid out and of course told the history of Bundaberg Rum.
After wandering through the museum it was time for our tour of the distillery. We were greeted in the cinema area of the museum by our tour guides Bobbi and Angus. After a short safety briefing we headed outside where we were asked to place any items with batteries in them into a locker. You can also leave bags in this area.
We then headed out into the distillery. The smell of molasses hangs in the air but is nothing compared to the shed that contains the huge pool of molasses just waiting to be turned into rum. In fact it holds about 5 million litres of molasses. You even get to sample some molasses which if you have never tried it before might surprise you.
Rum contains only three ingredients – molasses, yeast and water. The yeast doubles in size every 24 hours so therefore the vat that it is held in must increase in size as well. After the fermentation process the rum is distilled into huge oak barrels where it matures for a minimum of two years.
THE BARREL ROOM
We then headed into the Barrel Room where we learnt about all the different rums that Bundaberg Rum makes. Bundaberg Rum doesn’t just produce plain old rum. They also make a variety of liqueurs and produce several aged rums.
Several of their rums have won awards including their Solera which just won the 2017 Worlds Best Dark Rum title. These specialty rums are aged in barrels that have previously had other spirits or liqueurs in them including port, whisky and bourbon. The Solera is aged in port, bourbon and sweet sherry barrels. And a bottle will only set you back $180.00!
As part of the Distillery tour you get to sample two products of your choice. Now this was a tough decision for us because…..shock, horror……we’re not rum drinkers. We decided that we would pick two things that we really wanted to try and then as you get a full nip we could try each others. I headed straight for the liqueurs and opted for the Coffee and Chocolate Liqueur and the Salted Caramel Liqueur (served with a swirl of cream of course). Brenden picked two rums from the Master Distillers Collection – the Small Batch and the Small Batch Vintage Barrel.
The Small Batch is matured in Brandy and Cognac barrels and won Worlds Best Gold Rum in 2016. It was quite smooth to drink but was still a bit to strongly flavoured for us. The Small Batch Vintage Barrel was definitely a step up in taste and smoothness. It is matured in 100 year old port barrels and I could almost smell Christmas cake in it.
We loved both the liqueurs that we tried. My favourite was the Chocolate and Coffee whilst Brenden really liked the Salted Caramel.
Prices start at $30 per person for the Museum and Distillery tour and this includes two tastings. Tickets can be purchased in person or on-line. Tickets purchased on line receive a 5% discount. If you don’t want to do the Distillery Tour, entry to the museum is $20 and still includes two tastings. You can book your Bundaberg Rum Distillery Tour HERE.
Bundaberg Rum have done an amazing job in creating the new museum and cellar door area. The covered outdoor area is the perfect spot to relax with a drink. The cellar door sells a wide variety of Bundaberg Rum merchandise along with all the different varieties of rum,many of which are not available in mainstream retail outlets.
The only thing I think they could add to the experience would be for them to add light meals into the mix. As we finished our tour right on lunchtime, I would have happily had lunch and a couple more drinks had that option been available.
Regardless, we would highly recommend a visit to the Bundaberg Rum Distillery next time you are in town.