Thursday, March 10, 2011

Koloa Rum in Focus: The Distillery, Tasting Room & 22° North Cocktails

Koloa Rum Tasting Room
A relatively hidden distillery is located roughly 15 miles west of Lihue producing a new boutique rum from Kaua'i. The entrance is marked with a sign, reading Kukui Hawaiian Fruit Specialties, another business on site. Upon arrival, I am warmly greeted by Jeanne in Public Relations. After a short introduction, Bob Gunter, the President, and Meghan, Sales and Marketing Manager of Koloa Rum Co., lead the way through the first rum distillery on the island. We enter the warehouse and make our way to the fermentation room. The room smells wonderful! Bob informs us Koloa Rum is made using sugar cane crystals from local sugar cane grown in the western part of Kauai. 

Kukui Sign
(at distillery entrance)
There are presently a group of four 250 gallon containers fermenting. I learn the yeast utilized is from Guadeloupe, an island in the French Caribbean. The discussion revolves around many new ideas Koloa Rum has been researching. Next, we enter the distillation area. I witness a small batch distillation in progress. Perfect timing! Bob tells the story of how this 1947 copper still made by Liberty Coppersmiths in Philadelphia, PA was acquired and found its home here. Its full of character (as well as rum), composed of a copper pot still with a seven plated copper column still and condenser just above it. Koloa rum is a unaged, twice distilled rum. Moving into the bottling area, there is one worker centering labels on each bottle in a semi-automatic process for the final seal, inspection and packaging. The decorative image of the Hawaiian islands wrapping around each bottle's white seal is classy. I am offered a taste of their new Koloa Spiced Rum soon to be released. Bob takes a sample straight from stainless steel holding cylinder for tasting. Awesome!
1947 Copper Pot & Column Still
(photo courtesy of Koloa Rum Co.)
He states he wants to produce a "distinctively different" rum. Small batch distilleries can do this. Koloa Rum is unique and here are a couple reasons that may explain why. As I sip, I am told that this rum is born from water in an area receiving the world's highest annual rainfall, specifically Mt. Wai'ale'ale. This rainwater filters down through rich volcanic soil and rock on Hawaii's oldest island providing its unique character. The sugar cane crystals used are from local "tall cane" grown in Kaua'i. Quality ingredients are necessary for a quality product. I focus back to the rum at hand, literally in my hand. Spiced rums are generally not to be enjoyed neat. However, served neat, this Spiced Rum finds a nice balance in flavor, tasting of fresh ingredients with surprisingly smooth finish for a spiced rum. The Rum Collective looks forward to the new Spiced Rum addition! Koloa Rum is presently not available in Washington State but may be in the near future.

Cheers to Bob and Meghan for their time and an insightful tour!

 Koloa Rum Tasting Room

Koloa Tasting Room
The Koloa Rum Tasting Room is located on the beautiful Kilohana Plantation a 10 minute drive from the distillery. The building is surrounded with a variety of well-manicured plants, including tall sugar cane. We arrive to meet Lisa, gracious and friendly, who instructs us which room to go in and taste Koloa Rum. Okay, if I must! The tasting room has a long bar on one side and a miniature replica of the copper still from the distillery. Hina, the hostess, leads the tasting. We receive a sample of Koloa Gold, Dark and Mai Tai mix. After tasting each, she instructs us to pour the Mai Tai mix into the cup containing the Gold Rum and gently float the Dark on top to produce a Mai Tai taster. Fun! Oh, did I mention the moist piece of Koloa Rum cake for dessert? And yes, it is all free!

Hina in the Tasting Room
In addition, there is a souvenir gift shop where one can purchase bottles of Koloa Rum, Koloa Rum Cakes, among other items like a miniature oak barrel to age your rum in. Nice!

Koloa Dark Rum & mini oak barrels
Tasting Room

Miniature still replica
Tasting Room

Feeling hungry after the tasting? Enjoy supporting environmentally friendly, scintillating cocktail bars? No problem. 22° North, is just next door! Don't be confused by the sign, which reads the previous restaurant's name, Gaylords. Once inside, Todd Oldham, the general manager, informs us all the ingredients used in their cocktails are grown on site. Literally, you can walk out back to verify. They even press their own fresh cane juice from sugar cane grown there. Their water glasses are reused bottom portions of wine bottles. Local and fresh sounds great and tastes amazing! A discussion with Laurie, the bartender, yielded four seasonally fresh Koloa Rum libations to consider. See below!

A big thanks to Lisa and Hina for a memorable visit!

22° North

Cocktail #1
by Laurie
Cocktail #1
1oz Koloa White Rum
0.5oz Koloa Gold Rum
Muddled strawberries, African Blue Basil
Splash of lime sour, top with seltzer
Garnish with Blue Basil

Cocktail #2
1oz Koloa White Rum
1oz Koloa Gold Rum
Muddled tangerine, 4 mint petals and African Blue Basil
Several scrapings of vanilla bean
Top with seltzer
Garnish with tangerine peel 

Cocktail #4
by Laurie
Cocktail #3
1oz Koloa White Rum
1oz Koloa Dark Rum
0.5oz Cointreau (orange liqueur)
Splash of lemon grass and lime sour
Top with sugar cane juice (freshly pressed)
Garnish with a sugar cane stick

Cocktail #4
1.5oz Koloa Gold
Muddled blood oranges and cranberries
Splash of 7UP, top with seltzer
Garnish with blood orange wedge

The Rum Collective would like to thank Todd, Laurie and the staff at 22° North for their dedication to local, sustainable, and remarkably fresh rum cocktails!


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