Road to Recovery: The City of Bundaberg & its Rum

The Best Laid Plans…

To celebrate their 125th anniversary in 2013, Bundaberg Rum had long planned a special release – the first super deluxe rum ever released in Australia – the 125th Anniversary Rum. Unfortunately, nature intervened, as it so often does. Nine months before the planned celebration, the city of Bundaberg was inundated with floods for the second time in three years and the distillery’s plans were very much on hold.

Previously, on Christmas Eve 2010, after it sustained heavy rain, the Burnett River broke its banks, inundating hundreds of homes. Peaking at nearly eight metres above the usual levels, it was the worst flooding the city had seen since 1942. But Mother Nature was not finished. Secondary flooding, nearly as bad, followed in mid- January 2011. More than 300 homes and 120 businesses suffered.

Unbelievably, worse was to come in 2013. In January of that year Cyclone Oswald hit the region, bringing flooding and tornados, and leaving a trail of destruction estimated at $2.4 billion. The Burnett River peaked at over nine and a half metres –
the highest level since records began in the 1890s. More than 7,500 residents were forced from over 2000 flood-affected homes and the hospital was evacuated. The town was cut off from the rest of the world. At Bundaberg Rum, workshops were flooded and the distillery was forced to close down. They had been badly impacted, but they knew that others in their community had suffered even more. They also knew that few enterprises in Bundaberg had the ability and the opportunity to assist the locals in reviving their shattered town. They set to work again.


After the floods of 2011, Bundaberg Rum instigated the Watermark program – a series of special events to raise funds for local charities – and released the special Watermark Rum. They knew that they had to do everything they could to support their drenched community and were determined to provide all the support possible.

The devastation was far more widespread in the floods of 2013 and again, Bundaberg Rum came to the aid of their community. An immediate donation of $200,000 to the Red Cross Flood Appeal was followed by their team hitting the ground, working with those impacted, “everyone doing their bit”. Bundaberg Rum knew more 
was needed and they also knew that the media spotlight would fade soon enough, as soon as the floods slipped from the front page. And a plan was hatched.

To keep media attention on Bundaberg, and to bring in much needed income and support for the locals, Bundaberg Rum bottled and released a limited edition
rum – just 10,000 bottles – called the Road to Recovery Rum. As a gesture to those affected, Bundaberg Rum presented a bottle to every household in every flood- affected street. In fact, the names of all 355 affected streets appear on the bottles.

Bundaberg Rum has always been key to tourism in the city and the income it injects is vital. So, in order to attract as many people as possible to Bundaberg to assist the local economy, Bundaberg Rum restricted sale of the Road to Recovery to those who personally attended the distillery. Out went the invitations, far and wide, to Bundy fans across the nation. Social media went into overdrive.

“If You Bottle It, They Will Come.”

When the doors to the distillery opened on March 16, less than six weeks after the flooding, a crowd of more than 4000 Bundy fans from all over Australia were waiting at the gates, keen for a chance to purchase a bottle of Recovery Rum.

They raised a further $250,000 for the local community. Inevitably, the limited release rum proved as popular as its predecessors.