A Quick Introduction to Hawaiian Rum and 2 Leading Local Distilleries

Rum is best known as a spirit of the Caribbean, but Hawaiian rum is making a splash. Rum drinks are already a staple on Hawaii, so it makes sense companies like Kōloa Rum Companyand Manulele Distillers have staked their claim as two of the state’s leading distilleries.


Koloa Rum Company
Image courtesy of Kōloa Rum Company

Kōloa Rum Company started distilling a range of rum products in 2009. A mansion anchors a the sprawling, 26,000-acre Kilohana sugar plantation estate on the island of Kauai. A visit to the base of operations offers a scenic escape complete with tasting room.

The rum is made from Hawaiian sugar cane and locally sourced water, which is filtered through volcanic rock before settling into underground aquifers. Kōloa’s main lineup includes white, gold, dark, spice, coconut, and coffee options. Recently, the brand released its first reserve varietal: Kauai Reserve 12-Barrel Select Hawaiian Rum

Ko Hana

Crafted at Manulele Distillers on Oahu, Kō Hana Rum is made with the pure juice of sugar cane (rather than molasses, like many Caribbean rums). In fact, the company uses heirloom varieties of Hawaiian sugarcane — means sugarcane in Hawaiin — dating back to when the Polynesians first settled the Hawaiian islands.

Kō Hana’s signature offering is Kea, a white agricole rum that really lets with inherent flavor of the can shine with notes of banana and buttersctoch. Other options include a barrel-aged and a cask-strength rum, as well as a sweet cacao and honey version.