New: Hawaiian Vodka, distilled on Oahu
It took Dave Flintstone five years to get the only distillery on Oahu up and running and turning out a product he was happy with.
Flintstone, a former scuba instructor, became fascinated with sugar cane-based spirits during a stint in the Caribbean.
"People asked me why I didn't make rum," says Flintstone. "Let's just say I decided to make vodka first."
Hawaii now has a number of rum distilleries, including the award-winning Koloa Rum from Kauai.
Maui has two vodka producers. Pau distills its vodka from pineapple juice concentrate. Ocean Vodka imports organic sugar cane neutral spirits and mixes them with desalinated deep-ocean water from Mahalo Water on the Big Island.
"You can make vodka out of anything that has sugar in it," says Flintstone. Grapes, pineapple, potatoes, grain, corn, sugar cane. But vodka is distilled to such purity that it doesn't taste like what it's made from.
"Corn vodka doesn't taste like corn, grape vodka doesn't taste like grapes," he says.
Flintstone's Hawaiian Vodka does have some raw sugar on the nose, but it tastes, well, like a premium vodka, powerful and smooth.
To get that smoothness, Flintstone (right) filters it through lava cinders. "It works for the water on the Big Island, and it works just fine for vodka."
He also micro-aerates his vodka. That is, he shoots in a small blast of air before capping the bottle, evaporating off the unwanted higher alcohols and leaving the pure ethanol.
In addition to his straight vodka, Flintstone has a coconut vodka.
Biting Commentary is not a big fan of flavored vodkas, so he may not be the best judge. He tasted the coconut vodka, it's less like candy than most flavored vodkas.
Flintstone said he worked hard to capture the taste of fresh coconut. Lilikoi and pineapple are in the works.
You can sample Hawaiian Vodka (and pride yourself on drinking local) at Bambu2, Bar 35, Hy's Steakhouse, Ruth's Chris Waikiki, Chai's Island Bistro and a growing list of Island outlets.
For more information, including updated information on Hawaiian Vodka's availability, see HawaiianVodka.com.