KAUAI, HAWAII –When the future of the last of the island’s sugar plantations turned uncertain, a group of investors got together to try to figure out a way to save them.
Rum. Distilled from Kauai rain water and home-grown sugarcane made into raw crystal sugar.
Producing the 80 proof-and-over spirit did prolong the life of the last sugarcane plantation, but couldn’t save it from eventual closure.
Still, Koloa Rum Co. has proved a success story.
Established in 2009, it remains the first and only licensed distillery on Kauai. Its award-winning rums are now sold in nine states, as well as inf France, Australia and Canada. In San Francisco, you can pick up bottles at Cask stores.
With 22 employees, Koloa Rum now produces seven different rums.
If you fly Hawaiian Airlines to the islands, too, you can even enjoy a Koloa Breeze rum punch for free — even in coach — in a promotion by the airlines and distiller.
Moreover, when you’re on Kauai, you can visit Koloa Rum’s tasting room at the Kilohana Plantation. Free tastings are offered every half hour. You must be 21 years or older to partake, of course. And yes, IDs are checked.
That’s just what I did on a trip a few weeks ago to Kauai, courtesy of the Kauai Visitors Bureau. I’ve enjoyed many a wine tasting. But never a rum tasting, which will definitely jolt you awake at 11 in the morning, which is when I did it.
By Kauai law, each person is allowed tastings of only 1 ounce of rum per day. In this tasting, you’re basically making your own Mai Tai shot. Your guide first pours a little Koloa Mai Tai mix into one shot glass for you to taste. Next, a pour of the Koloa White Rum into another glass. Take a small sip to taste the crisp, clear rum that has a slight tropical pineapple finish. Then, pour it into your Mai Tai mix glass. Next, you get a pour of the Koloa Dark Rum, which tastes of molasses, coffee and toffee. The darker rum has more caramelized sugar added to it, hence its color. To create a classic Mai Tai, carefully pour your Dark Rum down the side of the shot glass with the Mai Tai mix and White Rum. You end up with a float of the Dark Rum on top. After you’re done admiring your handiwork, slam it back in one chug for a quick buzz.