Pushing boundaries: How Bundaberg Rum strives for sustainability - Bundaberg Region
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Pushing boundaries: How Bundaberg Rum strives for sustainability

Rum is what happens when a creative but thirsty soul decides to ferment molasses. Sure, there are a few other steps involved in turning a by-product of sugar milling into drinkable alcohol. But at heart, it’s all about making sure that nothing goes to waste. With that philosophy in mind, Bundaberg Rum continues to push the boundaries of modern rum making, embedding a zero waste ethos into everything they do.

Locals will tell you that the Bundaberg Rum Visitor Experience is a must-do. Recently awarded the title of World's Best Distillery Tour at the 2021 International Spirits Challenge, it attracts thousands of rum lovers from far and wide each year. It’s a multi-sensory experience. Visitors explore the rich history of rum in a museum inside a giant 75,000 litre vat. A tour then takes them behind the scenes of the working distillery and ends with a tasting of two world-class rums. For connoisseurs, special tours on Fridays and Saturdays let guests blend their own personalised premium rum guided by a master distiller.

Rum: the ultimate way to recycle

Sustainability has always been a part of the Bundaberg Rum story. The distillery opened in 1888 as a complement to the developing sugar-growing industry and it’s been a feature of Bundaberg for over 130 years. But the distillery couldn’t function without a close relationship with nearby Millaquin sugar mill. In fact, the mill and the distillery work hand in hand to eliminate waste from the rum-making process.

Bundaberg Rum uses molasses from the mill as the basis for their beverages. They also power their stills with steam from the mill, created by burning bagasse (the pulp left over after milling). In turn, the mill puts ‘waste’ from the distillery to good use. It treats all the distillery’s wastewater and uses it as irrigation on local sugar cane farms. Another by-product of rum-making is ‘dunder’. It’s made up of the non-fermentable materials in molasses. One hundred percent of this nutrient-rich liquid goes back to sugar cane farms as a liquid fertiliser.

“Our whole product comes from recycling! So, we're already starting at a great spot,” says Duncan Littler, Distillery Marketing & Experience Manager for Bundaberg Rum, who’s witnessed first-hand the increasing interest from consumers in how their drinks are made. “It’s something that excites us. I think there's a great culture of continuous improvement here, to push those boundaries of rum-making, but then at the same time, always looking for ways to make rum in a more sustainable fashion.”

Spirit of sustainability

Bundaberg Rum’s willingness to continually refine processes within the distillery means they are constantly improving the quality and sustainability of a product that proudly takes the Bundaberg name to the world. For instance, it takes a lot of water to make rum. After molasses is pumped out of the sugar mill and into the distillery via a network of underground pipes, the distillery adds water and yeast. The thick, dark molasses needs to be watered down to make sure that the yeast can do its job properly, converting all of the sugar into alcohol. In fact, diluting molasses accounts for most of the distillery’s water use. This mixture ferments for two days before going through the rest of the distilling and ageing process.

The company’s sustainability targets have always been ambitious. Reducing the distillery’s water footprint involved the whole team thinking creatively, adjusting the variables of the fermentation process to make it as efficient as possible. Ty McKeown who oversees governance and compliance at the distillery explains that healthy yeast was the key to reduce water consumption by 30% over the last five years.  “We always say our yeast is a living organism and it needs to have the perfect conditions to ferment well,” he says. “So, by finding those ideal conditions, we put that yeast in the best position to ferment efficiently. That allows us to maximise the molasses concentration in our fermentable wort, and therefore minimise the dilution water required.  We’ve realised a good volume of water savings in that process alone.”

If the 200 awards given to rums crafted in the Bundaberg distillery in recent years are anything to go by, as efficiency increases so does the quality of the rum in the bottle. That’s good news for rum lovers everywhere!

Taste the difference at the Bundaberg Rum Visitor Experience!

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Saturday, 28 May 2022

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