Bundaberg Rum. Is there anything more Aussie than Bundy?

Bundaberg Rum is one of Australia’s most iconic brands and best loved drinks. What’s so good about Bundy rum?

Quick Guide

Bundaberg Rum

What is it?

Australia’s iconic golden rum, Bundaberg Rum (or Bundy as it’s ubiquitously known) has been going strong for over 125 years.

Where's it from?

Bundaberg of course! That’s Bundaberg, Queensland, where the rich volcanic soil and tropical climate promote the growth of the sugar cane and molasses from which Bundy rum is made.

What does it taste like?

Renowned for its, rich and distinctive taste, Bundy rum is like no other. The traditional UP is great as a mixer whilst the newer “Master Distillers’ Collective” varietals are winning international awards as premium rums.


Where do the terms UP (Underproof) and OP (Overproof) come from? Before technology allowed a more scientific calculation, alcohol content was tested using gunpowder. Ordinary gunpowder was soaked with spirit and a match introduced. If the powder lit (i.e. exploded) the spirit was Overproof. If it didn’t, it was Underproof.

Bundaberg Rum History

In 1788, the First Fleet landed in Port Jackson. 100 years later in 1888, another noteworthy event occurred with the establishment of Bundaberg Rum, still going strong after more than 125 years.

Bundaberg Rum is distilled from molasses, a waste product from sugar production. In 1888 the town of Bundaberg produced 20% of Australia’s sugar and was awash with unused and unwanted molasses. This waste was being poured into the Burnett River or tipped out over nearby land. Businessman (and cane grower) Frederic Buss proposed a way of turning the waste molasses into profit, by distilling it into rum. And so began the construction of the Bundaberg Distilling Company Limited’s state-of-the-art distillery.
At the time, rum did not have to be matured in wood for two years so could be immediately shipped to thirsty consumers. As most of these customers were in Queensland, and Queensland was full of very hot farmers, there was great appeal for something easily transportable which didn’t need to be chilled to be enjoyed. And this proved to be Bundy rum’s success story – its unique flavour coupled with its portability.
In fact, Bundy rum didn’t even come in its own bottle: it was shipped to agents in barrels who bottled it themselves to resell. It wasn’t until the early 1950s, when Samuel McMahon (advertising guru brother to 1970s PM Billy McMahon) designed the distinctive bottle, label and polar bear logo, that Bundy rum became established as an Australian domestic and international success story.
And whilst we’re on the polar bear topic, what’s that all about? Not entirely, as many suggest, to enhance its appeal to colder markets. It’s actually Sam’s form of self-promotion: “McMahon” roughly translates as ‘son of the bear’ in Gaelic. But he was a savvy enough marketer to co-opt the device to extend Bundaberg rum’s reach to Australia’s colder, southern markets by claiming it wards off winter chills as well.

The Spirit of Bundaberg Festival

Ask an Aussie about rum and you’ll be told about Bundaberg Rum. Bundy, that is. Originally beloved by drovers, farmers and diggers, today’s Bundy aficionados hail from all walks of life. And you’ll meet a great cross section of them at the annual Spirit of Bundaberg Festival.

Held – where else? – in Bundaberg, the Festival celebrates the bi-annual release of unique rums. For example, in 2015, the first Festival will see the launch of:
  • MDC Blenders Edition 2015
  • MDC Small Batch Vintage Barrel
  • The Famous Bundaberg Royal Liqueur – Banana and Toffee Flavour
  • The Famous Bundaberg Royal Liqueur – Coffee and Chocolate Flavour

For tickets and further information see Bundaberg Festival


Bundaberg Rum Products

The original Bundaberg rum, crafted using the same processes as its 1888 predecessor, is alive and well after more than 125 years of production. Also known as “Liquid Gold” and – the truly Australian – “Cane Champagne”, Bundaberg Original UP is fermented, double distilled and aged for at least two years in hand made oak vats. Bundy OP has been around for just as long but is blended to extra strength to deliver a richer, more intense character (and higher alcohol volume).

Then, in 1986, the seeds were sown for development of the now-famous Bundaberg Black rum. A specially selected vat of rum was put aside and aged in oak for 10 years. The resulting smooth, mellow, deep red rum was issued as a limited release with individually numbered bottles, a process which continues today.
In 2009 Bundaberg began the Master Distillers’ Collective, developing aged, bespoke, premium rum varietals. These seven premium rums showcase the subtle power of sugar cane coupled with the best barrel maturation processes, using port (from Portugal), sherry (from Spain), cognac (from France) and bourbon (from America) barrels to age these craft rums to perfection. 
1. MCD 10 Year Old
Aged for 10 years in oak vats, then finished in small oak barrels, the rum is rich, smooth and well balanced.
2. MDC Port Barrel
Aged in Barossa Valley oak barrels that had been used to mature fine port for over 30 years, the rum is full, soft with a rounded finish like a giant plum or ball of chocolate.
3. MDC Golden Reserve
A pale, amber rum, the layered oak character and subtle fruit notes have been developed by harmoniously combining five different aged rums.
4. MDC Dark Oak
Aged in heavily charred American oak barrels, this rum has a rich, dark flavour with a hint of caramel and raisin.
5. MDC Double Barrel
First aged in port barrels to impart a great depth of character, then transferred for further ageing in sherry barrels to add a touch of sweetness and balance, the double barrelling process delivers a complex rum with hints of honey, caramel and spice.
6. Master Distillers 280
Using charred, aged American whiskey barrels, seven year old Bundaberg Rum is introduced for further maturation to deliver a rich, dark rum with a spicy bold character.
7. MDC Blenders Edition
Crafted annually from some of the distillery’s richest reserves and matured in port and sherry barrels, the rum produced delivers hints of raisins, vanilla and spice.
And two new products made their mark in 2008 and 2011 respectively: Bundaberg Red and Bundaberg Five. Bundaberg Red is an extra smooth rum which undergoes three separate filtering process, the final of which introduces the flavour of red gum to the spirit. Bundaberg Five is a white rum, double distilled then aged in white oak then five times filtered for a crisp, clean finish.
Even today new variants are being introduced, with 2015 seeing the launch of Vintage Barrel rums and Banana and Toffee Rum Liqueurs to name but two.


Bundaberg Rum Flavour

So what does it taste like? As there are over 20 different variations on the original Bundaberg rum we’ll just focus on the flavour of our hero, Bundaberg Original UP. A light, golden colour, Bundaberg Original UP Rum’s flavour has been attributed to the “...deep green cane and rich soil used to create it.” Fermented from thick, sweet and syrupy molasses, Bundaberg rum is then double distilled and matured in American white oak casks for at least two years during which time the raw, fiery spirit mellows into a complex, smooth rum. It’s credited with a full, rich and distinctive taste.

Bundaberg Rum Tidbits

  • The Bundaberg distillery was under military control during WWI to ensure that troops’ rum were prioritised over civilians’
  • Rum rations were used as currency during WWI to reward soldiers for extra duties (and to treat shell shock)
  • The first “Bundaberg and Cola” ready-to-drink bottle was produced by the distillery after American soldiers on R&R created the combination.
  • There are over 280 American oak vats on site at the Bundaberg distillery, each costing around $100,000 to make and containing an average of 69,000 litres of maturing rum
  • Bundaberg Rum was rationed in the early 1980s and nearly ran out of stock in 1997 due to an increase in sales beyond expectations.
  • “Bundy” is one of Australia’s most popular spirits, accounting for one in every ten spirits consumed
  • In 1889, around 5,500 cases of Bundaberg rum were produced each year. By 2013, that figure had grown to over 600,000.
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