Bundaberg Distilling Company has a long, proud history of trying to help out a mate in need. But if you ask Duncan Littler (pictured) from Bundaberg Rum, it’s the people of Bundaberg who made this iconic rum what it is today. “If the Bundaberg Region hadn’t been the sugarcane producing powerhouse that it was back in 1888, this great brand that we’ve got now may never have existed,” he said. “You need three local ingredients to make rum: pristine town water, molasses and a special strain of yeast that we cultivate here on site. The furthest we travel to get our ingredients is 50 metres. Every drop of Bundaberg Rum is fermented, distilled and matured right here on site. Being a single estate distillery is actually incredibly unique,” Duncan said.
Bundaberg Rum’s portfolio of drinks has evolved significantly in the past decade to include white rums, premium products and special limited edition releases. It’s consumers who have guided that shift. “People are getting more experimental,” Duncan said. “How they explore drinks has changed.”
Travellers seeking immersive holiday experiences is, in part, what led to the redevelopment of the Bundaberg Rum Visitor Experience in 2016. In 2020 it was crowned World’s Best Distillery Visitor Centre. “If you’re a Bundy fan, we want your visit to our distillery to be one of the best things you’ve ever done, but at the same time we want it to appeal to people who just enjoy great food and drink experiences. I love reading Trip Advisor and seeing how many of the reviews start with the line: ‘I wasn’t a rum fan until…’. We’re showing them that Bundaberg Rum isn’t just one style anymore.”
Duncan said Bundaberg Rum’s loyal following of die-hard fans came from all walks of life, from right across Australia. “The product that made us famous is Bundaberg Original, or Bundaberg UP,” he said. “Even when we are innovating, it’s the product that grounds us and reminds us where we’ve come from. We make sure that every time Bundy UP leaves our site, it’s of consistent quality and tastes exactly the same as the product our passionate fans have come to know and love.”
Aside from those who make the annual pilgrimage to Bundaberg to collect rum products that are exclusive to the Distillery, Duncan said the vast majority of people did not travel to a destination for just one thing. “It’s great to see all the first-class experiences and attractions that have been created here in Bundy in recent years. We’re really proud of the role we play within that collective group of businesses and people who are showing everyone why a trip to Bundy should be on their bucket list.”
Bundaberg Distilling Company has long shown a commitment to helping build the Rum City’s profile and boost its economy. After the devastating 2011 and 2013 floods, Bundaberg Rum hosted a series of free concerts in country pubs across the state and a Road to Recovery Festival in Bundaberg. “When the timing was right, we wanted to bring some joy back to flood-affected communities,” Duncan said. “We also understood that it’s easy for regional towns to fall out of the media cycle, so we wanted to let everyone know that Bundaberg was back open for business. Come and stay in a local hotel, fill up at a local petrol station, eat at a local restaurant, spend money in this community and get things going again.”
With the creation of two special releases, Watermark and Road to Recovery, Bundaberg Rum raised a combined total of about $1.5 million for local charities. Regeneration Rum raised funds nationally, following Australia’s worst bushfire season on record in 2020. Last year the company donated 100,000 litres of ethanol to the Queensland Government for hand sanitizer during the COVID19 pandemic. “There is a long proud history of Bundaberg Rum trying to help out a mate in need. Helping our community; it’s genuine,” Duncan said.
WORDS BY LARINE STATHAM-BLAIR