Updated 12 May 2019
Rum has a very long history in the white experience of Australia, going back to the very start of the colony in 1788.
For that we can thank the Royal Navy whose ships brought the first convicts, soldiers and administrators here. The Navy rum ration is well known, and it wasn’t long before they were brewing their own here- the first legal distillery opening in Sydney in 1824, however illegal distilling most likely dates from around 1804 and one of the reasons for the crackdown by Gov. Bligh was to get rid of the illicit stills.
For an in-depth academic look at drinking consumption, importing of spirits and other details of the new colony please see this research paper (opens a PDF – scroll forward to about page 20 onwards).
According to Wikipedia:
“The value of rum was based upon the lack of coinage among the population of the colony, and due to the drink’s ability to allow its consumer to temporarily forget about the lack of creature comforts available in the new colony. The value of rum was such that convict settlers could be induced to work the lands owned by officers of the New South Wales Corps. Due to rum’s popularity among the settlers, the colony gained a reputation for drunkenness, though their alcohol consumption was less than levels commonly consumed in England at the time.
Australia was so far away from England that the convict colony, established in 1788, faced severe food shortages, compounded by poor conditions for growing crops and the shortage of livestock. Eventually it was realized that it might be cheaper for India, instead of England, to supply the settlement of Sydney. By 1817, two out of every three ships which left Sydney, went to Java or India, and cargoes from Bengal fed and equipped the colony. Casks of Bengal Rum (which was reputed to be stronger than Jamaican Rum, and not so sweet) were brought back in the depths of nearly every ship from India although taken to shore clandestinely, to the dismay of the governors. Englishmen living in India grew wealthy through sending ships to Sydney “laden half with rice and half with bad spirits.”
The sale of the Rum caused our very first constitutional crisis when the troops of the garrison (whose officers were making a nice earner trafficking imported rum (which was used a currency in the early colony) overthrew the Governor in 1808, who was none other than William Bligh of the Mutiny of the Bounty fame. The troops were also known as the Rum Corps. You can read the full story here.
So you could say that from the start Rum was associated with the lower classes and scoundrels.
Australian Rum Overview
But we’ve come a long was since then, and Australia produces several fine and varied Rums, with most coming from Queensland which has long produced world class sugar cane.
Generally speaking the style is quite distinctive and nothing like the Rums you may have had from the Caribbean. Many of the Rum producers have history that goes back over 100 years. For the most part you’ll find they produce dark Rums, but Beenleigh make a very fine white version.
In recent years, there is a range of premium and limited edition releases from companies like Bundaberg to appeal to a more discerning drinker.
- Adelaide Hills Distillery, South Australia
- Beenleigh Artistan Distillery, Brisbane, Queensland
- Baker Williams Distillery, New South Wales
- Black Gate Distillery, Mendooran, New South Wales
- Blue Still, Young, New South Wales
- Brix Distillers, Sydney New South Wales
- Bundaberg Distilling Company Queensland
- Castle Glen Australia
- Far North Queensland Rum Company, Queensland
- Glengowrie Distillery, New South Wales
- Golden Lion Distillery, New South Wales
- Holey Dollar, Sydney New South Wales
- Hoochery Rum, The Kimberley, Western Australia
- Husk Distillery, New South Wales
- Illegal Tender Rum co. Western Australia
- Inner Circle Rum, Queensland
- Jimmy Rum, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
- Karu Distillery, Grosevale NSW
- Kimberley Rum Company, Western Australia (also known as Canefire Distllery)
- Lark Distillery, Hobart, Tasmania
- Lord Byron Distillery, Byron Bay, New South Wales
- Maria River Distillery, Mid North Coast, New South Wales
- Mount Uncle Distillery, North Queensland
- Riverbourne Distillery Captains Flat, New South Wales
- Sarina Sugar Shed, Sarina Queensland
- Stone Pine, Bathurst, New South Wales
- Saleyards Distillery, Capricorn Spiced Rum, Allenstown, Queensland
- South Sea Rum, Western Australia
- Tin Shed Distillery, South Australia
- The Siding Gerringong, New South Wales
- Waterview, Bundaberg, Queensland
- Winding Road Distillery, New South Wales
Please let me know if I’ve missed any!