A road trip of Australia’s fiberglass monuments
The Big Rum Bottle
We haven’t had a boozy Big Thing for months, so this week’s stopover in the city of Bundaberg is probably well timed, and long overdue. So far, all of our previous alcoholic Big Things have been wine-related, but this time we’re ditching all refinement and subtlety and going straight for the hard stuff.
Or should that be the rough stuff? Over the last 15 years, rum has been quietly cultivating a reputation as the drink of choice for Australia’s young male bogan population. Many of the rumbles, fights and glassings that take place in bars and pubs across the nation every weekend are fuelled by rum. And not just any old rum – Bundy rum.
In 2005, The Age reported on the number of bars in Brisbane alone that had stopped serving rum because of its association with aggression and violence. One café owner described rum drinkers as “a lot louder and more disruptive than other patrons and they just get aggressive”, while another was more to the point with the description; “yobbos”.
Bundaberg Rum also made it onto the coveted ‘Things Bogans Like’ list for 2011, although it scored fairly low at #232 out of a total of 250. Still, being on the list at all is no mean feat. It seems that on the socio-economic ladder of alcoholic beverages, Bundy rum really is way down there in the primordial soup, with alcopops, wine cooler and spumante.
However, the Big Rum Bottle isn’t afraid to stand up and be counted. The 7m high, 1m wide structure has quite an arresting effect outside the Visitor Information Centre at the famous Bundaberg Distilling Company. Not only is it an exact replica of a regular 700ml bottle of Bundy, but it also has a surprisingly proud past.
It was originally constructed in 1988 for the World Expo in Brisbane, where it made many friends standing at the Bundaberg Distilling Company’s pavilion. This salubrious event just happened to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Bundaberg distillery, so as you can imagine there was a lot of song and dance and merriment. Ever since this high profile introduction, the Big Rum Bottle has been meet and greeting the thousands of visitors to the distillery every year.
Unfortunately this triumphant beginning is somewhat overshadowed by the less-than-triumphant invention of rum in the first place. The only reason the spirit exists at all is because it was as a way for sugar millers to get rid of all that leftover molasses from the refining process.
Given this embarrassing little fact, Bundy rum really did need some serious salvation in the form of a Big Thing, to give it some cred, although this is possibly a double-edged sword in itself. After all, Big Things themselves also made it onto the 2011 list of Things Bogans Like, but they’re ranked a lot higher than Bundaberg rum, at #79. Oops.