Take a tour of Bundy Rum's special part in history
RUM is not just any beverage. There are associations with piracy and slavery, rum has been used as a currency and it played a part in our very own Rum Rebellion.
Its Bundaberg history began in 1888 when, due to a drought, falling prices for sugar, and imports, things were dire in the sugar industry.
There was also an excess of molasses, a by-product of sugar refining and the main ingredient in rum. And so, following a meeting of four of the town's top thinkers, began Bundaberg Rum.
The latest chapter in the history of Bundaberg Rum Distillery is an $8.5million upgrade to its visitor experience.
The Bundy Rum aficionado, or indeed anyone with an interest in history or who enjoys a good tour, is invited to join two new tour experiences. In addition to the distillery tour there is now a Bundaberg Rum Museum Experience and a Blend Your Own Rum Experience.
First I checked out the Museum - a self-guided tour housed in six 75,000 litre oak vats previously responsible for maturing thousands of litres of rum. They've been emptied and rebuilt, and you walk through an interesting and accessible history.
Then I tagged along on a distillery tour with seniors Yvonne Ciocca and Shirley Marchant to find out how the brown stuff people are so passionate about is made.
Yvonne and Shirley were tour veterans and fans of Bundy Rum and the Spirit of Bundaberg Festival. They are also in what senior brand manager Duncan Littler called one of the company's main age groups - 40 to 65-year-olds love their Bundy Rum.
Before we'd left the museum Shirley and Yvonne were sharing their favourite recipes using rum, Yvonne had made a rum custard the previous night, and their favourite drinks, mixers like Dark and Stormy. Shirley likes some rum in her Bundaberg Ginger Beer - the other great beverage from Bundy.
Our tour guides led us through the electrified fence into the place where it all happens. We tasted molasses and Yvonne, a farmer for 50 years, remembered feeding molasses to the cows, "the kids used to get in there and have a lick as well".
The tour is filled with interesting facts and figures, glimpses of the processes of fermentation and distillation and humour.
At the next-to-last tour stop the entire range is lined up and explained in mouth-watering depth - percentage of alcohol, length of maturation, blends, special editions and award winners.
By the end of the presentation every drinker over the age of 18 was ready and waiting for the taste testing to begin - responsibly of course. And responsibility is stressed as the tour guides become bar tenders and start pouring.
What did Yvonne and Shirley taste?
Shirley, as Duncan had thought she might, went for a blend, the Bundaberg Royal Liqueur Banana and Toffee, "oh, my goodness".
Yvonne was the driver and ordered a half nip of Bundaberg Royal Liqueur Salted Caramel, on ice. She indicated her water bottle, "That might be the nectar of the Gods, but this is pretty close."
They then did what the revamped bottle shop is designed for, they shopped while sipping their rum.
For her second free drink Shirley chose Bundaberg Tropics Mango and Passionfruit with lemonade, "it would be easy to get addicted to this".
And Yvonne another half nip this time of the Coffee and Chocolate Royal Liqueur, which also got a nod of approval.
Meantime there was a line-up at the checkout as visitors snapped up limited editions available only at the distillery, and their own assortment packs.
Yvonne and Shirley found themselves some very snappy collared shirts they intend to break out for the upcoming Spirit of Bundaberg Festival.
For tour bookings visit bundabergrum.com.au/tours