History

LIVING SPIRITS:
A HISTORY OF THE BUNDABERG DISTILLERY

CHAPTER 1 [1888 - 1913]

Inception, Depression and the mother of all bail-outs.

1888

BUNDABERG DISTILLERY IS BORN

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

1889

WHY START SMALL WHEN YOU CAN START WITH GALLON

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.

1890

ALL OR NOTHING. BUNDY HEADS WEST

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.

1890 -  93

SELLING OUT AND BUYING IN

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.

1907

WE DIDN'T START THE FIRE

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.

CHAPTER 2 [1914-1938]

Bundaberg in flames, rising like a phoneix.

1936

DISTILLERY GOES UP IN FLAMES. FISH DRINK FREE.

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.

1939

THE TEMPLE IS REBUILT

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.

CHAPTER 3 [1939 - 1963]

Americans bearing cola, polar bears in Queensland and a brand new bottle

1940 -  1943

YANKS INVENT RUM AND COKE.NO,REALLY

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?!

1951

LET'S GET SCIENTIFIC

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.

1953

HOW MUCH FOR A NAME?

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.

1961

YELLOW LABELS, SUAVE BOTTLES AND THE PM'S BROTHER.

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.

CHAPTER 4 [1964 - 1988]

Tasting panels and not-so-mad scientists.

1968

NOW HIRING:THE BEST JOB IN THE WORLD

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.

1974

BRINGING THE GOODS HOME

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.

1985

PUT IT ALL ON BLACK

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.

1988

100 YEARS MEANS COCKTAIL TIME

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.

CHAPTER 5 [1989 - 2014]

Innovation, MDC and our Road to Recovery

1993

TWAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT ...

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?

 

 

2008

SEEING RED

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.

2011

MASTER DISTILLERS' COLLECTIVE ARISE

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.

2013

ROAD TO RECOVERY

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.

2014

AGE AIN'T NOTHING BUT A NUMBER

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.

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Bundaberg Rum Distillery