Rum and sugar are bound together in Hawaii’s history. Kōloa Rum Company - Kauai’s first official producer of rum, and a popular attraction today - is a delicious study in irony. Its success coincides with the demise of the very product from which it is produced: Kauai sugarcane. The last mill on the island closed in October of 2010.
The Company "Secret"
Kōloa Rum Company's tasting room is located on the grounds of historic Kilohana Plantation in Puhi, just south of Lihue. The company produces its rum in a vintage 1,210 gallon copper pot. This traditional hand-hammered copper pot has a unique history: it was manufactured in New England shortly after World War II, and imported from Kentucky, where it was previously used to distill bourbon.
How Rum is Made
Koloa's rum pot still incorporates a copper column with seven individual plates, each of which allow rising alcohol vapor to “reflux,” or become more concentrated, as it rises through the column. After passing through the seventh plate, the alcohol vapor enters the condensation chamber (condenser) where it's cooled and condensed into liquid form. This process is believed to yield a high-proof rum that is clean and smooth and without many of the undesirable flavor characteristics commonly found in rum of a lesser quality.
Ties to Kauai History & Heritage
The base material for Kōloa Rum’s distillation is not molasses, as is typical of rum, but rather raw crystallized sugar, which contains naturally high concentrations of sucrose and molasses without having been heated, cooked, and processed. This is where the rum stays true to Kauai's sugary roots.
The sugar had been coming from the former Gay and Robinson Plantation but now Kōloa is collaborating with a local landowner to grow its own sugarcane. The water used is pure mountain rainwater from Mt. Waialeale–the wettest spot on earth–and the nearby mountain peaks and rainforests, which gives the rum its sense of place.
Koloa Rum Co. — Photo courtesy of Kolao Rum
Claim to Fame
The dark rum is Koloa's claim to fame. It has not been aged in oak, as is a common practice with dark rums. Instead, the intensity of flavor is the result of the blender’s mastery of spices. It is delicious served on the rocks–no need to mix it with anything–or as a floater for tropical cocktails such as a Mai Tai. It would be perfect in a bread pudding, or any dessert calling for liquor. It’s no wonder that it garnered one of prestigious gold medals at the 2010 Miami Rum Renaissance Festival in Miami, Florida, an impressive feat considering that their license to distill alcohol had been issued only one year earlier, on April 1, 2009.
Koloa Rum is available at various local restaurants and vendors, such as Whole Foods Market. In the spirit of history mixed with modernity - and of course a love for a tasty drink - visit the distillery or mix a drink with Koloa Rum.