- Established in 2009
- Distilled in Kalaheo, Kaua’i
- First and only licensed distillery in Kaua’i
Kōloa Rum founder Greg Schredder and his investors overcame permitting, pricey land, and challenging shipping logistics for nine years, investing five million dollars, to produce the first (legal) bottle of Kauaiian Rum.
Bringing this bottle to fruition turned into a community project for the town of Kalaheo. When Schredder learned that Hawaiian Kukui Fruit Specialties, a community staple since 1931, was nearly belly up, he jumped at the opportunity to get involved. He purchased both the Hawaiian Kukui facilities and the company, hoping to scale his rum production and revive the local business. Schredder and his team revitalized the production facility, updating machinery and rebuilding the roof that was torn off by Hurricane Iniki back in 1992, which had never been fixed! The workers had simply moved to the back of the building where the ceiling remained intact. Sticking to their timeless recipes and making full use of their modernized workspace, Hawaiian Kukui Fruit Specialties was resurrected alongside the Kōloa Rum Company.
Utilizing raw cane sugar mash instead of molasses as the sugar source for fermentation, the rums of Kōloa are all distilled in small batches in a 1,210-gallon copper pot still. Their contraption also involves a column still with seven plates. As with most still-distilled rums, the distillation process runs twice to achieve the characteristic flavor. As the alcohol vapor rises through the column, the plates cause the vapor to become more concentrated. Once the vapor hits the top of the column, its journey is temporarily over. It gets to enjoy the air conditioning, in a sense, as it condenses into liquid. Like their product, Kōloa’s copper pot still is also a tribute to the past; it was built in 1947 by Liberty Coppersmiths in Philadelphia and used to make distilled bourbons and rums in Kentucky in its previous life.
The word “Kōloa” has garnered many theories behind its true meaning. Ōlelo Hawaiʻi, the Hawaiian language, was purely oral up until the 19th century. Therefore, there is little recorded history to shed light on the intended meaning of words, especially compound words with diacritical marks (all the dashes, lines, and accents on letter that affect their pronunciation and meaning). One theory suggests the town name came from the Pali-o-Kōloa, the Cliff of Kōloa. This is a nice theory, but there is no indication of who or what kōloa is! The most fitting theory for us points out that kō refers to sugar cane, while loa refers to long length. All together, the reference to “tall sugar cane” is pertinent to both the agricultural lands surrounding the town and a brand name with this product at its core.
Indeed, the rum is not all gone – and there are plenty of Kōloa Rum varieties to try! All of the water in Kōloa rum is sourced from an underground aquifer fed by rainwater that filtered through Mount Wai’ale’ale’s mountains, forests, and layers of volcanic strata. The water imparts a unique flavor and feel into the rum. The other crucial ingredient in the process is the sugar cane. Despite this crop’s impact in shaping the local economy, the last sugar plantation on Kaua’i harvested its final crop in October 2009. I reached out to the Kōloa Rum Company in May 2019 to find out where their sugar cane is sourced. Fingers crossed for a local Kaua’i farm, but Maui is my inkling…
The original Koloa White Rum (40% ABV) is the distillery’s cornerstone product. It is a crystal-clear rum boasting “cloying viscosity” and “hints of marzipan and a dash of dried candied ginger.”
The Koloa Gold Rum (40% ABV) has a mild flavor that makes it great for mixing. It has a subdued sweetness and notes of vanilla, almond, and macadamia nuts.
Koloa Dark Rum (40% ABV) is a highly rated vanilla, chocolate, and
coffee-forward rum that is interesting on the rocks and amazing in a mai tai.
Koloa Spice Rum (44% ABV) boasts a slightly higher alcohol content than the other rums. It is vanilla-forward, sweeter than most, and best enjoyed mixed.
Koloa Coconut Rum (40% ABV) achieves the perfect flavor balance between sugar cane and coconut. They say this rum turns flavored-rum critics into believers! The fresh coconut is apparent on the nose and tongue, no hints of artificiality.
Koloa Coffee Rum (34% ABV) is the company’s collaboration with Kauai Coffee. Their child is this sweet rum that borders on confusing your senses for coffee. It has no burn and there is no wrong to consume it.
The Kauai Reserve 12 Barrel Select (46% ABV) is the company’s first aged product! The 12 barrel batch was aged for at least three years in charred American oak barrels, producing 3,500 bottles, all of which are inspected and numbered. Kauai’s tropical, humid climate makes the aging process happen up to three times quicker than it does in Europe, another reason this product is so well suited for the islands!
Hawaiian Kukui Fruit Specialties
As a result of Schredder’s purchase of the Kukui Company and it’s facilities, both are back up-to-speed and crafting delicious items on modern machinery from local produce. In 2010, Bob Gunter was promoted from general manager to President, backed by his contributions in constructing the plantation, tasting room, and company store. At the Kilohana Plantation Tasting Room in Lihue, you’ll find rum specialties including pre-mixed rum cocktails, rum cakes, and rum fudge sauce. Alongside these rummy options, Hawaiian Kukui Fruit Specialties offers up fruit jellies, jams, syrups, and coffees. You’ll even find some clothing and accessory options to sport Kōloa’s trendy logo. Unfortunately, the alcoholic Kōloa Rum products cannot be shipped due to state laws, but there are many products for sale in their online store.
Kōloa Rum Company is one of the fastest growing companies in Hawai’i. Their reputation for treating their employees and customers as ohana helps them develop strong relationships around the world. Company President Bob Gunter explains the rum’s success by saying they simply offer what people are looking for – quality, uniqueness, and authenticity.
Tasting Room and Company Store
Address: 3-2087 Kaumualii Hwy, Lihue, HI 96766
Phone: (808) 246-8900