Learning that over 40 bars and restaurants in Hawaii serve Kō Hana Agricole Rum, I was excited to visit one of Oahu’s sugar cane farms and rum distillery for an ecotourism tasting tours.
Driving from my DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Alana in the Waikiki Beach area, we drove into Manulele Distillers, makers of Kō Hana Hawaiian Agricole Rum. In every direction were acquired acres of sugar cane fields. This was once the old Kunia Camp on an old Del Monte plantation in West Oahu.
Taking a tour of Kō Hana Agricole Rum, visitors learn that this unique and meticulously crafted farm to bottle spirit has a story. Named Kō (Hawaiian name for sugarcane) and Hana (Hawaiian for craft), the sugar cane only needs sun and water to grow year round. The single varietals are hand harvested, pressed to juice and then distilled to create one of the world’s finest pure cane rums.
What makes this distillery different, is the owners cherish their sugarcane, just as a craft tequila company does to their agave plants, or boutique winery cultivating their grapes. These Kō plants are progenitors from sugarcane that the first Polynesians brought from other islands. They might be from Papua New Guinea and Tahiti that arrived to Oahu by canoe thousands of years ago. Sugar cane is a calorie dense plant that provides hydration and potassium to nourish one’s body and soul.
We learned that Papua New Guinea grows over 100 varieties of sugar cane. Here at Kō Hana they grow 34 varieties on red volcanic soil. Some have yellow and green stalks, others have shades of purple and green. Rows of sugar cane grow among a scattering of banana trees.
While many of the Caribbean rum distilleries traditionally make rum from molasses, this rum is made from pure sugar cane juice. It’s more labor intensive, however this rum is a labor of love.
The distillery tasting room is inside the town’s old plantation store and post office. The store’s old walk-in refrigerator now holds a variety of Ko Hana rum bottles. There is a pass through window where workers would come to get a hot meal. On the wall is an artistic message in a bottle display to leave a comment about the rum experience
Every varietal has a story and flavor profile of its own. The tasting experience includes a pour from four sqaure glass bottles holding 3.75 ml. This unique rum bottle travels well and looks more like an elegant decanter.
We started with a clear Kō Hana Kea (unaged rum) offering sharp herbal and grassy notes. Guest are encouraged to take a deep breath and breathe in the rum’s aroma, verses taking a big sniff from the tasting glass.
Next we sipped a white Pakaweli that offered a more peppery and well rounded flavor profile. Koho the third pour is from one of the select aged in charred oak whiskey barrels, and finished in used Madera oak barrels. This extra step enables further development and reveals the essence of the flavors. It offers a tingle on the tongue and is ideal to sip with a large ice cube that slowly melts.
The last pour was a sweeter rum named Kokoleke, made with local cacao and honey. This makes an awesome dessert drink to sip or to pour over ice cream.
Next time you visit the Oahu Island, reserve at least two hours at KŌ HANA Distillers. They have a pizza oven to prepare a pizza and salad combo. Address: 92-1770 KUNIA RD #227, KUNIA, HI 96759, USA(
Phone 808) 649-0830 INFO@KOHANARUM.COM
This article was also featured in JustLuxe