The land down under was literally built on rum. When Captain Bligh was governor of England's southern penal colony, the British pound was the official currency but the much more available medium of trade was rum. When Bligh, acting on orders from England, decreed that rum was no longer to be used as currency in the colony the Corps arrested him for being unfit to govern. This short-lived revolt, labeled the Rum Rebellion, was the only time the government of Australia has been forcibly changed.
Sugar cane was introduced to Australia and Norfolk Island in 1788 but the tropical grass wasn't well suited to the Australia's southern climate. Australia's first European residents, mostly convicts, guards and a few military men and their families, weren't well prepared to survive off the land. Most had never farmed and were confused by the reversal of the seasons in the southern hemisphere. It was several years before land grants attracted the skilled farmers willing to work the land and develop the export market the colony needed to prosper.
More than half a century later, Captain Louis Hope harvested the first successful sugar crop in 1862, east of Brisbane and then established the first sugar factory in 1864. That same year, the Sugar and Coffee regulations encouraged agricultural development by European planters in Queensland with three year leases and options to purchase 320 to 1280 acre plots under favorable terms. By 1890, sugar had been established as a major crop in the warmer climate and fertile land along Australia's northeastern coast as far north as Mackay.
In 1869, James Stewart bought the 100 foot schooner Walrus, converted it to steam and installed a pot still on the fore deck. Stewart also installed a small sugar mill capable of crushing two tons of sugar cane a day on the deck and then managed to persuade the Inspector of Distilleries, reluctantly, to grant the Pioneer Floating Sugar Company a distillery license. The license was finally granted a license on April 14, 1869. For the next three years the Walrus moved between the small sugar plots along the rivers, crushed cane and made rum from molasses.
In their first year, the Pioneer Floating Sugar Company paid tax on 14,000 gallons of rum. It was difficult for the authorities to keep track of the amount of rum distilled in the floating still, so in 1872, the Pioneer Floating Sugar Company's license was not renewed. Not one to miss an opportunity, Stewart continued, unofficially, to operate the Walrus until 1883 by which time small sugar factories and distilleries were being built along the river.
The price of sugar fell in 1884 but since the popular spirit generated considerable tax revenue the government continued to encourage rum distilleries to operate. Besides being more valuable to transport, rum was more durable than wine or beer and offered a better risk for traders who sold Queensland rum to the growing population along Australia's east coast.
Today, sugar is Australia's second largest export product and 98% of Australia's sugar cane is produced in Queensland, all of which is mechanically harvested.
- There are 7 sugar cane spirit distillers in this database from Australia.
- Beenleigh Distillery
- Hoochery Distillery
- Inner Circle Rum Pty Limited
- Kimberley Rum Company
- Lark Distillery
- Mt. Uncle Distillery
- There are also 2 companies in this database blending/bottling sugar cane spirits from Australia.
- Far North Queensland Rum Co
- The Holey Dollar Rum Distilling Company