BARREL O’ INNOVATION: Inspiration in each drop of Bundy Rum
FOR more than a century Bundaberg Rum has been creating and innovating products enjoyed by millions.
And their latest drop is no expection.
Hidden Barrels is the first expression in a new series created at the distillery aptly named: The Distillery Edition.
So how do they keep their barrel of creativity full?
It starts with you - the rum drinker and consumer.
Sitting at the Distillery, Bundaberg Rum Distillery marketing and experience manager Duncan Littler provided a glimpse into the process behind creating iconic Bundaberg Rum products.
"You start with the consumer and think about 'who is the person that's actually going to drink this product? And when and how are they going to drink it?" he said.
"That helps you identify the type of rum that you're wanting to create.
"You don't dive into these things randomly creating different tasting liquids and going 'you know what that one's the one'."
He said it was about creating a rum that would deliver on the needs of the consumer.
Mr Littler said there were a lot of people who loved Bundy, but there was also a lot of different flavour profiles and occasions their rum variety needed to speak to.
"To be honest it's a bit of a love of ours as well, we love innovating," he said.
"We love creating new liquids."
Mr Littler said creating a new rum was like cooking, you needed to know what you want to end up with before starting.
When creating a brief for a new product they research the rum category, general public trends and the experience on site.
"There's a little bit of science, a little bit of data and there's a little bit of gut-feel as well," he said.
"It's about bringing all those three things together to really try and pinpoint, what do we think the right thing to do here is.
"One of the things we're incredibly lucky with here on site is collectively there's over 300 years of rum making experience on this site.
"So, you've got a lot of experience and a lot of opinions that you can gather to help us really finetune what is the right thing for the next product we're trying to bring out."
In creating world renowned and new products alike, the appetite everyone had for their role was vital.
"One of the things I think has helped us to be really successful in this space is, the people here have a genuine passion for what they do," he said.
"In recent years we've collected more than 200 international rum awards, we've been crowned the world's best gold rum, world's best dark rum and world's best rum at some of the biggest rum competitions around the world."
When trying to refine a product he said they look at a number of samples that they've created and engage the expert tasting panel that is at the distillery.
Through a collaborative process, they determine what needs to be altered to create the desired rum product.
He said everybody on site was trained to be a panellist and a panel was held daily; though it's not just for creating new flavours.
Mr Littler said panels were about releasing the next batch of Bundy, whether it be UP, Red or Small Batch.
Everyone was trained to ensure they could control the standard of rum released from the distillery.
He said when trying to replicate products consistency was key.
"You want them to taste the same every time they go out the door," he said.
And it doesn't stop there.
"With that process that everybody's involved, you identify some people who are particularly good at picking the differences in liquids, but also really good at identifying great flavour notes and providing great advice about how we can fine tune those products.
"Those people are then included in our expert tasting panel and usually there's about eight to 10 people that are included in that panel.
"It's an exciting job and fantastic to be involved in creating new products."
When it comes to Hidden Barrels, Mr Littler said the ambition was to release a new expression annually for the distillery's birthday on November 22.
"We wanted to start this series off with something a little bit special; which is why we've kicked things off with the Hidden Barrels expression and this is a fantastic drop that's been made from blending four fantastic liquids together that we found here on our site," he said.
"We've got a 16-year-old rum that's been matured in heavy-charred American Oak Barrels, a 15-year-old rum matured in ex-port barrels, a 10-year-old rum that's been matured in ex-bourbon barrels and an 8-year-old rum that's been matured in ex-sherry barrels.
"All those liquids were being used in past experiments that we have made here at the distillery, that maybe you or other rum fans around Australia have enjoyed.
"One of the things that you find though when you're experimenting with different liquids, often you're doing a bit of trial and error with multiple different barrels and different volumes.
"And then at the end of those experiments sometimes there are great liquids that are just left over - there's nothing wrong with these liquids, they just weren't needed for that batch.
"So when looking to make the new expression, we kind of looked at the reserve, went back to the barrelhouse and had a look at some of the rum reserves that we had there that to be honest we didn't have a pipeline for."
He said they were fantastic liquids that they didn't want to go to waste so they went back to the drawing board to see if they could combine them to create something great.
And thus, Hidden Barrel was borne to the distillery.
"Personally, I think it's a fantastic drop and on social media it's been getting some incredible feedback," Mr Littler said.
"We're very happy with the first release in this new series."
As this edition has been released to celebrate the anniversary of the distillery, you can only purchase Hidden Barrels from the distillery; or online, were it will be sent from the distillery.
"I think it's great, it's a key part of the story, a celebration of this great distillery that's been here for more than 130 years," Mr Littler said.
He said in light of the success Hidden Barrels has had, stock was running rather low at the moment.
"We're hoping we're going to have enough stock available up until Christmas, but we can't promise anything," he said.
Mr Littler said there was an incredible amount of work that goes into each product and while Hidden Barrels has only just hit the shelves, already work is underway for the next Distillery Edition expression which is scheduled for release in November 2021.
"I can't tell you what it is, but I can assure you we've already started working on it, because that's the amount of time that it takes to really fine tune and create an incredible liquid," he said.
He said the new series gave Bundaberg Rum a platform to be releasing a new product annually.
"I really want every liquid each year to be incredibly different," he said.
"I don't want us just to be tweaking the liquid from the year before, I really want us to push the boundaries of rum making and explore some really new territories.
"It excites us, but also to, I'm hoping that it's going to excite rum fans around Australia."
To pick up a bottle of Hidden Barrels head to the Distillery on Hills St, Bundaberg East.
Or visit Bundaberg Rum's website.