Bundy is a staple of the Australian culture. An icon. A classic. But although it has been distilled for 124 years, it was only three short years ago that the company decided to branch out into finely crafted, barrel-aged blends.

Amazingly, the inception of Bundy’s decision to craft special blends of its iconic rum didn’t come from management. It didn’t even come from Diageo, the brand’s parent company. Instead, it came from the distillers themselves.

Back in 2009, three of the company’s master distillers decided that they wanted to expand their repertoire by producing handcrafted liquids aged in oak barrels from around the world. The distillers took their idea to management, and asked for a $10,000 grant to purchase some barrels to begin the process.

As it turned out, management loved the idea, and gave them $100,000.

In March last year, the company released its first offering from the Masters Distillers Collective (MDC) – a 10 year old rum that won Silver at the International Wine and Spirit festival. In September last year, the company backed up its initial success with its Port Barrel rum, a six year old rum finished off in port barrels from a south Australian winery that won another silver medal at the International Wine and Spirit festival, as well as a bronze medal from the San Francisco Spirits competition

March this year saw the release of the Golden Reserve, a blend of five different rums all aged in different oak barrels. Like the other releases from the Masters Distillers Collective, this rum won silver at the International Wine and Spirits fetsival, as well as taking home bronze at the San Francisco Spirits competition.

The immediate and overwhelming success of Bundy’s decision to branch out into limited release boutique rums has been augmented by the distillery’s decision to develop The Barrel House, which opened to the public this week. Housing up to 1000 oak barrels sourced from around the globe, including bourbon barrels from the US, whiskey barrels from Scotland, cognac barrels from France, sherry barrels from Spain and wine barrels from everywhere. The multi-million dollar facility offers Bundy vistors the chance to get up close and personal with some of the barrels used in the crafting process, as well as one of the vats used to impart Bundy’s iconic flavour to the rum.

The barrel house itself is split into two separate sections. The half where the public can enter, which is lined with about 2,000 MDC bottles, a walk through VAT with a see through floor over bubbling water and a huge wall of oak barrels. The other half of the building is the ageing area, where the distillers experiment with various blends to try and find upcoming creations good enough to bottle. The fact that the distillery is filled with about 22 million litres of rum running at about 78 per cent alcohol means that a large part of it is sealed off from the public, including the ageing area of the Barrel House.

These developments are all part of a much bigger picture for Bundy. While far and away Bundaberg is Australia’s most consumed rum, the Masters Distillers Collective range offers a chance for the brand to branch out of its historic place as a mid-level spirit. With premium flavours, premium bottling and a premium price tag, it’s clear that Australia’s national rum is destined for big things.

Web: Bundaberg Rum

Nick travelled to the Bundaberg Rum distillery courtesy of Bundaberg Rum