After being so impressed by the tour and tasting at Beenleigh Artisan Distillery (read about that here), we decided to take the drive up to Bundaberg to check out Australia’s largest and most well-known rum distillery and compare the two for all of you.
The distillery in Bundaberg is much larger physically than that at Beenleigh, and has its own interesting history that the tour guides are all well equipped to tell you about. Beenleigh suffered several floods over its years, where Bundaberg suffered fires. Both bounced back as quickly as possible to keep making their incredible products. Both source their sugarcane/molasses as locally as possible, and both try to stay as true to their product as they can in each variation they create. The different sugarcane sources in themselves change the flavour of the rum, and when you add to that the slightly different distilling methods and barrels used in the aging process, you end up with two remarkably different rums.
Each distillery has knowledgeable and charismatic tour guides available to tell you about the distilling processes, the history of the distillery, the ingredients used (that is – where the molasses comes from, what type of yeast they use, and their water source), and their products. Any questions you’d like to ask will be answered in a flash (unless, of course, it’s a secret!) and you will leave feeling satisfied that you know more than you knew you wanted to about the production of rum, and with a thirst for more information – and, of course, rum!
We enjoyed the company of Chantelle, who was engaging, enthusiastic, passionate and knowledgeable – everything you could possibly want in a tour guide! Upon meeting several of the other staff members at the distillery, we could only assume that everyone working there is constantly happy and motivated to do their best to promote their product.
Traditional Bundaberg rum has a very distinct flavour that most Australians will recognise upon their first tentative sip. It’s a love it or hate it kind of flavour – there aren’t many I’ve met who sit on the fence when it comes to Bundy. If I remember correctly, over 95% of Bundaberg rum is consumed in Australia, with a large portion of the remaining percentage consumed by Australians overseas. Bundaberg has recently entered a new era in which they are hoping to change these statistics and broaden the reach of their unique rum. With this new era has come several new rums, including their “Tropics” range, their new Salted Caramel Royal Liqueur and Banana and Toffee Royal Liqueur, and their “Master Distillers’” collection. Fortunately, it would appear their new creations are hitting the spot for rum drinkers who don’t traditionally choose Bundaberg Rum. In recent years they have won many awards all over the world, which is good news for the future of Bundy!
Each tour of the distillery includes two tastings – one rum, and one liqueur. We tried the Master Distillers’ Collection – Blenders Edition 2015, which is finished in port and sherry barrels; the Master Distillers’ Collection – Small Batch Vintage Barrel, which is 8 year old rum that has been matured in 100 year old port barrels; the Banana and Toffee Liqueur; and the Salted Caramel Liqueur.
Of these, we appreciated the rums significantly more than the liqueurs, which are awfully sweet and taste of artificial flavours rather than more natural flavours. Our tour guide had recommended the Banana and Toffee Liqueur, noting that she thought it tasted like “real” banana rather than fake flavouring. We disagreed, with the liqueur bringing back memories of childhood birthday parties filled with artificial colours and flavourings. For some this would be an incredible thing – we just don’t enjoy this flavour and would not try this liqueur again. The Salted Caramel Liqueur doesn’t taste so much salty as just plain caramel – again, it is tasty as long as you expect an ultra-sweet, almost artificial taste. I can, however, vouch for the Coffee and Chocolate Royal Liqueur that Bundaberg produces – it is slightly less sweet, and has more of a natural and rich flavour, almost similar to Kahlua. Combined with milk, it’s a delicious nightcap with just the right amount of sugar to enjoy but not feel as though you need to rush off to brush your teeth immediately afterwards (or halfway through).
This said, the rums were very tasty and although the traditional and ultra-recognisable Bundy Rum flavour still came through, they were much more accessible to a non-Queenslander palate. It seems safe to say that Bundaberg Rum will be around for a long time yet and, with any luck, that the international market will open their hearts (and tastebuds!) to Bundy soon.
In conclusion – if you think you would be satisfied going to just one rum distillery in Queensland, think again! They are both unique in history and product, and both deserve at least one visit while you’re in Queensland.
To take a guided tour of Bundaberg Rum Distillery, it will cost $23.75 per adult if booked online prior to the tour, or $25 at the door.
They also have the option to take a self-guided tour, in which you peruse the museum of the distillery, and listen to and read about the history of the distillery and the process of making the famous rum. This option is cheaper, but not nearly as interesting or informative.
For full pricings, visit the Bundaberg Rum Distillery website.
When we visited, we attempted to book the full tour online. However, the website told us the tours were full and we could only book the self-guided tour, which we did. Upon arrival at the Distillery, we were informed there were still spots available on the full tours. Note well – it is always worth calling and asking if the website is accurate!
Bundaberg Rum Distillery
Open: Monday – Friday, 10am-5pm
Saturday – Sunday, and Public Holidays – 10am-4pm
A: Avenue Street, Bundaberg QLD 4670
P: (07) 4131 2989
Photographs in this article courtesy of Alexander Brinsdon