Be The First to Take Kō Hana Rum’s Distillery Tour
Savor a little bit of sugar cane history in Kunia.
Kō Hana Rum works with Kunia Country Farms to educate 1,000 schoolchildren every semester via agricultural field trips. Kunia Country Farms produces 500 heads of lettuce and 1,000 pounds of salad mix every week, with everything growing on coconut husk rafts.
Photos: Lennie Omalza
Kō Hana rum has been around for a couple of years, but the hardworking crew over at Manulele Distillers out on the West Side is now offering public tours and tastings. We caught up with Kyle Reutner, Kō Hana brand manager, to learn all about it.
“We have a lot of love for this cane,” Reutner says, referring to the 12 acres of sugar cane Manulele has on the old Del Monte land in Kunia, as well as on 14 acres in Waialua. It is with this cane that founders Jason Brand and Robert Dawson have been creating Kō Hana rum. From dark purple and light purple to red and green, each sugar cane varietal is unique, with its own taste, sugar content and history. There are approximately 90 varieties in the Kō Hana collection right now. “We’re trying to make sure none of them go away,” Reutner says. “We want to preserve them all.”
Only one varietal is harvested at a time, and its fresh juice (as opposed to molasses, which is used to produce most other rums) is mixed with native Hawaiian cacao yeast, then distilled. After the distillation process, the creation either sits in a stainless steel container for 90 days, or it’s barrel-aged. “We’re feeling it, we’re smelling it and we’re tasting it,” Reutner says. “We’re very picky.” Once the team has eliminated anything that isn’t up to par, the rum agricole that remains is as pure as can be, with no added sugars or other additives. With so much care put into the product from beginning to end, it’s no surprise that the entire process—from cane growing in the field to the rum being bottled—takes approximately 16 months. It can take even longer if the rum is barrel-aged.
But once it’s done, the distinct tastes of the different kinds of rum are mind blowing. Kō Hana produces three main types: Kea, its white rum; Koa, which is a barrel select, meaning it was aged in small batches; and the barrel-strength Koho, which has been matured twice. The flavors range from being fresh, almost fruity and vodkalike to having a fuller, more robust flavor, like whisky. Each bottle also has the type of sugar cane it’s distilled from handwritten on the label, so you know exactly what you’re drinking.
Kō Hana is not yet available in stores, but bottles can be ordered online or purchased directly from the distillery during tours and tasting hours, which are Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Private tours are also available by appointment. Just drink with caution—between the rum-flavored gelato served as a refreshment and the 110-proof samples you’ll be tasting, you may leave a little bit tipsy.
Manulele Distillers, 92-1770 Kunia Road #227, Kunia Camp, Waipahu, 649-0830, kohanarum.com