Australians have had a penchant for rum since the earliest days of European settlement. It was the Sydney colony’s major currency and soldiers were the merchants and hence their more colourful nickname – the Rum Corps. The liquor was one of the causes of Australia’s only military coup d’état – The Rum Rebellion that saw Governor William Bligh overthrown in 1808.
Fast forward to 1872, hardy pioneering stock (descendants of the rum soldiers and convicts) moved further north to grow sugar and where there’s sugar there’s molasses and when you have molasses you can make rum. In 1889, the first batch of Bundaberg Rum rolled off the production lines and the rest as they say is history. Some might say rum runs deep in our history if not our national drink.
After 127 years of distilling Australia and Queensland’s most well known rum, Bundaberg Rum is undergoing a major facelift. As part of an $8.5m upgrade, the new Bundaberg Rum Visitors Centre will throw open the doors to rum aficionados and tourists alike for 3 new tour experiences, The Distillery Tour, The Museum and in an Australian first, a ‘Blend Your Own Rum’ experience.
The guided distillery tour is all about deep, rich, mahogany rum colours and sweet, toffee and molasses scents. Molasses is pumped underground from the sugar refinery. The rum production process is complex with quality controls throughout.
This is where you see the craft behind producing the multi-award winning liquor. You even get to taste a drop or two.
The Museum is an immersive experience where you can walk through 75,000 litre oak vats that have seen years and hundreds of thousands of litres of Bundy to viewing the world’s largest collection of Rum bottles. The designers have re-purposed much of the old vats and pipes.
But it’s the Blend Your Own Rum experience that will get the fans salivating. TML was one of the lucky first few to ‘blend our own’ before the new facility opens for all to enjoy. MasterChef’s Matt Preston also guided us in a ‘how to’. He had already created ‘Matt’s Blend’ late last year and was keen to share his love of rum and the influences of the different barrelling.
Matt believes if we have a national drink it must be rum because it is so entwined in our history, “the spirit that underpinned those first Australian settlers”. His first rum experience? “In Spain, probably dancing to punk music and trying to crack onto girls without much success”. Today, it is more about sipping a well crafted rum – sharing with “friends on properties in the middle of the bush”.
The Bundaberg Rum Blendatorium is part science lab, part old world distillery (Think Frankenstein without the horror and lots of delicious, oaky tastes and scents). Each ‘blender’ has 5 glasses with premium rums aged in small oak barrels that were previously home to Bourbon, Sherry, Port, and Scotch. Each is subtly different from the sweet vanilla hints of the Bourbon to smoky, dark peaty Scotch barrels. The Heavy Charred American Oak Barrel aged rum is woody with tones of caramel.
Using pipettes, carafes, beakers, graduated cylinders and the 10 blending commandments as your guide you can mix and match flavour profiles until you ultimately craft ‘your’ bespoke blend from the barrel to the bottle.
The ‘This Magnificent Life Blend’? 2.5 parts Bourbon for sweetness and a hint of vanilla, 2 parts Sherry for the dried fruit, 1 part Port for not too much fruit cake with 1 part of peaty Scotch for the unmistakable touch of smoke.
Blending your own rum is not only for die-hard Bundy fans. It is a one-of-a-kind immersive experience to understand the craft of rum making. After blending, you are rewarded with 2 personalised bottles of your own blend to take home. This quite unique experience kicks off from Saturday, August 13 and will ensure the Bundaberg Rum Distillery maintains its position as the #1 tourist attraction in town.