It’s always cool going to places that people haven’t tourist-ified yet. We had just been to the Dole plantation a couple days ago so that’s what I pictured when my mom said we were going to the Manuele Distillers in Kunia where they hand make Ko Hana Hawaiian Agricole Rum.
Did you know that rum comes from molasses? I had no idea, it’s one of those things I just never thought about. It actually comes from sugar cane which also produces molasses. It started in the Caribbean during their sugar revolution, when the production of sugar from sugar cane was creating all that excess molasses. Turns out if you ferment it, it turns into alcohol – like our tour guide said, rum was the solution to their overflow of molasses problem, and it is the (alcoholic) solution to all our problems today (or the cause, depends who you ask).
We were given a tour of the plantation, which started off with the history of rum and sugar cane, and then went outside to see the actual process. We also got to check out their sister farm which grows lettuce, and their sustainable growing process. It was really neat; the lettuce heads are watered from pools that hold tilapia fish. The fish’s waste is used as fertilizer, and the water is recycled back into the fish tanks. Any evaporated water is replenished when it rains – it’s a really cool process to see when its set up, and such a good idea.
We then got back to the sugar cane/rum process and learned that there are more than 50 types of native sugar cane on the island and the plantation grows about 36. They have taken it upon themselves to preserve the native plants that were brought over 800 years ago with the first Polynesians. Each sugar cane produces a slightly different flavour and so they keep them separated in the fields and during the distilling process. The sugar cane is harvested and then crushed in a machine, and then put through the distiller. They have three different types, Kea (non-aged), Koho (barrel-aged, bottled at 86 proof), Koa (top of the line, bottled at 110-125 proof). We got to try three versions of the Kea and one version of Koho. I definitely liked the Koho one better, it had a deeper flavour and was more bearable one its own. The other ones would be great in cocktails, like a mojito.
We heard about this place in an ad in the Globe and Mail, and we are so glad we came across it. It was a cool boutique distiller that really offers a lot in terms of the rum making process and getting to know the people that are actually making it. Next time you’re out at Oahu, I definitely recommend checking out this place! Visit their website here and Instagram here.