June 28, 2019 – As Hawaii was once a massive producer of sugarcane, it should come as no surprise that rum is a popular spirit on the islands. While large-scale production of Hawaiian sugarcane has collapsed, a growing number of distilleries are continuing to provide their own tropical spin on rum. And some distilling companies are branching out to gin, whiskey, vodka and canned cocktails. Here are some of the distilleries and cocktail bars worthy of a visit.
On the island of Oahu, native Hawaiian sugarcane plays a prominent role for Manulele Distillers, which crafts small batches of farm-to-bottle Ko Hana Rum. The distillery sits on land once owned by Del Monte, where pineapples were farmed. Now, Ko Hana grows dozens of varieties of native sugarcane, which are used to make its agricole rums. The distillery’s tasting room is inside the former Del Monte general store and post office, and tours are available Wednesday through Saturday.
Also in Oahu, Island Distillers produces the HAPA line of rum and vodkas (including coconut, hibiscus and chili pepper versions) and Okolehao, a 100-proof, native Hawaiian spirit.
On the island of Kauai, Koloa Rum Co. has been crafting single-batch, twice-distilled rums since 2009. In a 1,210-gallon still, Koloa produces rums with locally sourced ingredients including coconut, pineapple and coffee. Koloa’s lineup features six rums, all of which are cut with filtered water from nearby Mount Waialeale. The White Rum, Gold Rum, Dark Rum and Coconut Rum are all 80 proof. The Spice Rum, which is 88 proof, features notes of cinnamon, cacao, caramel and sarsaparilla. The 68 proof Kauai Coffee, which is a collaboration between Koloa and Kauai Coffee Co., is a nod to an espresso cocktail with a dry finish of light vanilla followed by hints of chocolate and coffee. Koloa also produces the 92-proof 12-Barrel Select Hawaiian Rum, which is aged for at least three years in charred American white oak barrels.
In Maui, Kolani Distillers produce its line of Old Lahaina Rum from the ruins of an 1875 vintage sugar mill in Paia. The distillery produces three rums: Silver, Gold and Dark. Created by father and son Paul and Brian Case, Old Lahaina Rums are made from local molasses. The rum is named after the town of Lahaina, where British sailors first brought their rum on Hawaiian shores in the 1700s.
Maui is also home to Hali’imaile Distilling Co., which makes a vodka, rum, whiskey and gin. Its flagship brand, PAU Maui Vodka is distilled using pineapple. Nearby, Hawaii Sea Spirits creates Ocean Organic Vodka from water sourced 3,000 feet below sea level.
Also in Maui, an established brewery is venturing into craft spirits. Kupu Spiritsfrom Maui Brewing Co. recently began distilling gin and whiskey and today will launch its canned cocktail program. The canned cocktail lineup includes Whiskey Ginger, Whiskey Cola and Gin & Tonic.