Rum Deal Reunites Sugar Milling and Distilling

Rum Deal Reunites Sugar Milling and Distilling | The Cultivator Autumn 2020

Rum Deal Reunites Sugar Milling and Distilling

After a 150-year hiatus, production of rum is set to return at the site of Australia’s earliest known commercial distillery and our oldest continuously operating sugar mill, in a partnership between Sunshine Sugar and The Holey Dollar Rum Distilling Company.

The Manildra Harwood Sugars mill and refinery, on the Clarence River in northern NSW, is where the Colonial Sugar Refining Company (CSR) first produced the late-19th century rum.

Production of CSR Traditional Rum continued into the 1900s, with the distillery’s move to the Sydney suburb of Pyrmont to produce primarily industrial ethanol. By 1968, the more commercially focused Inner Circle had become the best rum CSR could produce.

But the rum disappeared from the market after CSR sold its distillery rum interests in 1989 to The Bundaberg Distilling Company – including the CSR trademarks Inner Circle and Holey Dollar.

By the start of the 21st century, former Australian Olympic yachtsman Stuart Gilbert and some close friends saw a need to fill the void created when Inner Circle Rum vanished from the market.

Mr Gilbert tracked down the original yeast and, using available mature rums, was able to create a blend closely resembling the traditional rum made by CSR.

After acquiring the trademarks for Inner Circle and Holey Dollar, the Inner Circe rum was re-launched in 2002 to immediate international counting wins at the International Wine and Spirit competition in London every year but one from 2002-2007.

After Lion Nathan acquired the Inner Circle Rum business and distillery in 2007, Mr Gilbert decided to establish the Holey Dollar Rum product 200 years after the 1808 Australia Day Rum Rebellion.

In 2009, Holey Dollar beat 84 rums around the globe to become the first Australian distillery named Worldwide Distiller of the Year at the International Wine and Spirit Competition – including the Best Rum trophy and three gold medals for rums in three alcohol strengths.

A decade on, and through the Sunshine Sugar-Holey Dollar agreement to blend and distribute high-quality spiced rums catering to modern-day connoisseurs, the future of Australian rum production is entering an exciting new era — reconnecting the historic links between commercial rum production and our last-remaining, 100 per cent Australian sugar refiner, which is operated in partnership between the family-owned Manildra Group and grower-owned NSW Sugar Milling Co-operative.