Is this Queensland’s biggest Bundaberg Rum collection?

BOB hates putting a dollar value on his Bundaberg Rum collection.

But when pushed for the figure, he drops his voice - and it's well into six figures.

The Sunshine Coast manufacturer even commissioned a sprawling cellar in his home to house the collection he's curated from all over the world.

"I first started collecting rum 15 years ago. Some nice bottles came out and I bought a carton, and it's gone from there," he said.

"I was into coins for a while but I found them boring. You can't share them with anyone. You just sit there and look at them."

And while he doesn't think twice about spending thousands on a rare bottle, ironically he rarely drinks it.

"In the early days, that was all we used to drink. Today, I don't drink as much rum. I have a good session once in a while when I catch up with friends, but the body just doesn't handle it like it used to."

Commemorative mirrors in Bob's collection.
Commemorative mirrors in Bob's collection.

Bob specialises in old bottles of Bundy, but there are passionate lovers of the brand across the country who collect everything from stubby holders to tattoos emblazoned with the famous yellow label and polar bear.

Facebook has united many of the nation's diehard collectors, but it's the distillery's annual release of a special bottle that sees them converge on Bundaberg - and it's where lifelong friendships have been forged.

Mick from Paddington is one of them, and talks about the iconic dark spirit like a much-loved member of the family.

"I collect merchandise because it tells me the story. The bottles tell Bob the story. I've paid $90 for an A4 piece of paper and people have gone 'you're an idiot' but I've walked away going 'yeah!'" he says pumping the air.

Some of the glasses in Mick's collection.
Some of the glasses in Mick's collection.

"Everybody's got their own thing they collect. It doesn't really matter what you collect so long as you really care about it."

Mick caught the collecting bug in 2010, but his love of Bundaberg Rum started well before that.

"I saw a thing in the paper one day about the 2010 Black that they bought out and I thought 'I better get a carton of that'. But I'd bought a bottle in 1988 for the 100th anniversary, and it went from there," he said.

"I've drunk rum since I was 18. It's my drink. Look, I could have six beers and be silly as a wheel, but I can have 57 rums and I'm okay. I'm exaggerating a bit but you know what I mean."

Mick says few believe it until they try it, but he's adamant old rum just tastes better.

"I went to a party one night and I took a bottle that was worth about $2000. I said to the young blokes there 'I've got something special tonight' They said 'that's standard UP' and I said 'no it's not. It's bear one' - that's where the bear's standing up straight on the label," he said.

"They asked why it was so different, and I think when that bloke put that bottle in the box, he kissed it. It was made with love."

 

A festive corflute featuring the Bundy Bear from Bob’s collection.
A festive corflute featuring the Bundy Bear from Bob’s collection.

The Brisbane foreman is well-known among collectors as Rum Dog - and it's clear he gets more of a thrill chasing down a rare item for a friend than for his own collection.

"My mate put up a sign one day and said if you ever need anything picked up or delivered, Dogs R Us Couriers will do it for free. I got calls from people saying 'hey Dog, can you pick this up for me?' and I'd go and pick it up," he said.

"I drove 600km one weekend, and none of it was for me, but I drove home thinking 'yeah! I've done it! I'm the dumbest bloke with a smartphone, so some weeks I'll owe someone $1000, the next week, they'll owe me $2000. I'm not really on the internet so they do it for me, and I'd do it for them."

Mick estimates he has over 300 pieces of Bundaberg Rum glassware, and has been known to fork out $260 for a couple of coffee mugs.

"And you know what? I got a bargain," he said.

Meanwhile Bob has around 500 bottles and is forever on the hunt a rare bottle.

"I'll get them wherever I can find them. When I lie down in bed, I'll go through eBay and Gumtree," he said.

"There's about 100 holy grails in Bob's collection," Mick added.

"For every collection I've seen, there's always something I would like out of that collection. You're not a collector if you have everything, and that's what it's all about," Bob said.

But for all the money he's spent on his collection, Bob says it's the cheapest bottle that means the most.

 

Bob's favourite bottle from his collection.
Bob's favourite bottle from his collection.

"Dad had a stroke and was down in Armidale so we missed the Road to Recovery release (in Bundaberg). I remember my brother saying 'we missed the release because of you, you old bugger', joking around with dad," he said.

"At that time, there were some former State of Origin players from Queensland and New South Wales in town at a signing, so me and my brother decided to go and get a bottle of rum and make our own release, just the two of us. All of the boys signed up the bottles and then we went and got them framed up," he said.

"Dad passed away a week later, and that's my most sentimental bottle. It doesn't matter if someone offers us $10,000, they're never going to get it. It's my bottle. It was time with my brother. If you came to my cellar, and asked what's my best bottle, I'd look past the $3000 bottles and say that one - and it's worth $50.

Both Bob and Mick say it was Bundaberg Rum that brought them and many others together with a passion for the brand and keeping it's history alive in this, it's 130th year.

"It's all about friendships," Mick said.

And Bob can't ever imagine a time where he won't be adding to his collection.

"It won't end. When I put my legs up in the air and if the kids want to sell it all for $50 a bottle, good luck to them - but I'm enjoying it now."

For more, find the Bundaberg Rum Collectors Queensland on Facebook.