The brainchild of seven Queenslanders who realize there’s got to be a better use for the burgeoning sugar industry than making cake, Bundaberg Distillery is established with an initial production team of only five men. Rum was already popular in Australia thanks to the First Fleet, but from what we hear, it tasted pretty bad
The first batch of Bundaberg Rum rolls off the production line. All 22,5000 gallons of it. If you have an unmarked bottle of this somewhere in your basement, you should go out and buy yourself a lottery ticket.
A small supply of Bundaberg Rum is sent to Western Australia, where it goes down a treat. Sydney and Melbourne will follow, establishing Bundaberg’s national ambition early.
A crippling economic depression leads the new distillery into receivership. Three upstanding men buy it back and Bundaberg lives to drink another day. We assume they were very smart businessmen, or maybe they just really liked rum.
Honestly, we didn’t. It breaks out in one of the still rooms in the dead of night and takes hours to put out, with loads of damage and ruined stock. Believe it or not, it isn’t even the worst one this century.
A lightning strike sparks an explosion that destroys the distillery, despite the valiant efforts of hundreds of civilians, firefighters and police. Millions of litres of molasses also flow into the Burnett river, setting it alight and making for some deliciously marinated fish.
Three years of construction later, the Distillery is back to its former glory.It's the same one you'll still see if you visit Bundaberg today.Probably had a lick of paint,though.
Visiting US soldiers enjoy plenty of rum while in Queensland during WWII, but they also have a peculiar penchant for mixing it with cola. The Bundaberg team notice, and soon begin bottling Bundy and Cola, one of the world’s first mixed drinks. How’s that for innovation?!
Bundy decide to up the ante and hire themselves proper scientists. Up until this point, they’ve been using the same method they first coined in 1888. From refining the yeast strain to refining the molasses clarifying process, Bundy’s passion starts becoming more technical.
Up until the ‘60s, Bundy Rum is still sold in barrels, with agents putting their own label on it. In 1953, they take their first steps towards cementing the brand, running a radio competition for the best slogan. In the meantime, the agency organising it has secretly pre-registered the name ‘Bundy Rum’, which they sell back to their client for a considerable profit.
The business end of the Bundaberg Rum brand is tied up with Sam McMahon, the gifted marketer and brother of future Australian PM, William. Good old Sam is responsible for some of Bundy’s most iconic features, from the square bottle to the polar bear that adorns each label and is the brand’s mascot. McMahon actually means ‘Son Of Bear’ in Irish. You can have that one for free.
Bundaberg Rum appoints its first tasting panel, which consists of eighteen experts who taste the rum for consistency, a process still in place today. If this sounds like heaven, that’s because it is.
After years of letting other distributors bottle their product, Bundaberg brings everything in house. All rum is bottled by the Bundaberg Distilling Company and now proudly bears McMahon’s label and the iconic bear. Somewhere, the guy who sells us empty bottles is silently counting his millions.
Remember those scientists and taste testers we told you about? They come up with the first of their many brilliant schemes, which involves setting aside a vat of Bundaberg Rum for a decade of maturation. In 1995, they’ll sell it as the premium, limited edition Bundaberg Black and fans will go wild. Trust us on that one.
To celebrate the centenary of their fine liquid, the Bundaberg Distillery holds its first ‘Famous Aussie Spirit’ cocktail competition, using their famous Royal Liqueur blend, famed for its rich coffee and chocolate flavour. Some better suggestions include the Rumming Bear and Bundy Bombshell. Good puns, it seems, only get better with age.
Yet another genius at the distillery decides to mix two of Bundaberg’s most famous products- rum and ginger beer - into one bottle. It’s very popular, that one and it’s called Dark & Stormy. Did we mention the distillery is full of geniuses?
Bundaberg Red lands. Filtered through Red Gum for extra smoothness, it’s a game-changer in Australia and will account for 15% of the market in just two years. You could almost say it’s red hot, but that would just be a bad pun.
Bundaberg takes taste very seriously, and by the mid nineties, they are already employing a group of master distillers. In the dead of night, they decide to form a collective, and MDC is their first legacy; a top-shelf, limited release rum that continues to cast spells over rum lovers worldwide.
Queensland is hit by the second devastating flood in three years. Road To Recovery is Bundy Rum’s way of helping their community back onto their feet, with limited edition bottles that can only be purchased at the fundraising event in Bundy. Each bottle bears the name of a flood-affected street, and sales raise over $250,000 for flood relief.
This follows on from the Watermark campaign, which helped raise funds for the first Queensland floods in 2011.
Bundaberg Rum celebrates its 125th with a special anniversary bottle and keeps producing the rum Australians know and love. They also clock a record 250,000 fans on Facebook, because you can teach this old dog new tricks.