HONOLULU, HI—June 2, 2015—Manulele Distillers, home of Kō Hana Hawaiian Agricole Rum, celebrated the opening of its new tasting room in Kunia on O‘ahu on May 27, 2015. The boutique distillery is distinguished for crafting rhum agricole by pressing hand-harvested, single varietals of Native Hawaiian heirloom sugarcane or kōin Hawaiian, that existed in Hawai‘i prior to Western contact; then distilling the juice into one of the world’s finest pure cane rums.
“A vast majority—almost 99 percent—of the world’s rum is made from molasses, the by-product of industrial sugar,” said Jason Brand, co-founder of Manulele Distillers LLC. “Our process celebrates the fresh juice and individual characteristics of each cane varietal, which has taken us years to catalogue and revive.”
Sugarcane was first introduced to the Hawaiian Islands by Polynesian explorers nearly a thousand years ago. Historically, these “canoe plants” were used for food, medicine, spiritual ceremonies and decorative materials. Cane was also used to enhance dryland production of food crops, including taro and sweet potato by blocking wind, capturing mist and producing mulch. When missionaries and other Westerners started sugar plantations in the early 1800s, they bred and imported their own commercial cane hybrids with traits favored over the indigenous Hawai‘i cane to increase sugar yields.
Brand and Manulele Distillers’ co-founder Robert Dawson’s interest in the original Hawai‘i varieties of sugarcane began as an investigation into sugarcane as a renewable energy source. Then the plan gave way to rum production and the first batch of Kō Hana rum was produced in 2014.
“When we were introduced to our first stalk—Kō Manulele—we knew the cane was meant to be revered, cherished and celebrated,” said Dawson. “Our process is meticulous and demanding, but the result is a story in every glass anchored by the elixir’s native roots.”
In the Hawaiian love ceremony Hana Aloha, as documented by Aunty Mary Kawena Pukui, Kō Manulele was one of three sugarcanes used to arouse a deep and everlasting love.
“It was definitely love for us,” Dawson says of the production of Manulele Distillers’ first crop of Kō Manulele cane. “And our commitment is that only rums that we truly love are bottled without compromise.”
Weekly Wednesday tours and tastings are currently being offered at the distillery in Kunia between 10 a.m.- 3 p.m. Reservations are recommended by calling 808-649-0830 or emailing [email protected]. Guests can expect a tour of the cane garden, facility and tastings of Kō Hana’s three signature rums:
Kea ($30 a bottle) – Manulele Distillers’ signature white rum, which captures the full flavor and essence of freshly pressed native Hawaiian sugarcane. Banana, fresh cream, butterscotch and subtle earthiness rest on the palate.
Koho ($45) – This barrel select offering is a beautiful example of how agricole rum evolves. The nose expresses caramel and subtle cinnamon notes. New flavors coalesce bringing vanilla, honey, and warm spices to the rich golden brown elixir.
Koa ($75) – Taken directly from the oak barrel at full cask strength with only the most modest filtration, this rum is perfect for true connoisseurs.