Kōloa Kaua'i Spice Rum

Kōloa Kaua'i Spice Rum

Product of:  Hawaii, USA
Aged:  NA
Price: $33
Alcohol: 44% ABV
Context: Flavored/Spiced Rum
RG Rating: 8.5

Tasting Notes 
Very Smooth. Kōloa Spiced rum is attractive enough to look at, presenting a pale light honey color.  Aromas are pleasantly unsubtle yet not too forward, an include vanilla, caramel, cinnamon, some alcohol astringency from the relatively high alcohol (44%ABV), pineapple, coconut meat and distinct macadamia nut. Upon initial tasting the flavors are rather sweet yet complimentary, delivering dark chocolate and light caramel, while a delayed macadamia nut taste adds a nice complexity and works well with the heavyweigh body.  Flavors fade quickly at the finish, leaving a nice residual kiss of sweetness and a macadamia aloha, of course.

Kōloa rum is aged in once-used Oak bourbon barrels.  In a nod to Hawai’i’s climate, Gunter said his spiced rum experiences a 30°F temperature fluctuation due to Hawaii’s tropical climate of hot sun and occasional cold fronts, forcing the rum in and out of the wood barrel’s pores and enhancing the vanilla flavors.

Kōloa had their first bottling in 2009, and they’ve developed considerable expertise in those two quick years.  At Miami Rum Renaissance in April 2011, I had a chance to listen to Bob Gunter, President of Kōloa rum, describe his efforts to produce great rum on Hawai’i.  Here are my notes from Miami:  “Quality starts with Great Sugar, Volcanic Soil, Right Climate, and water filtered through the volcanic soil.” – Bob Gunter.

Mr. Gunter claims five factors differentiate Kōloa rums:
1. Quality of Sugar.  “Hawai’i produces 18 tons per acre on average, with some of the highest sucrose content.  Kōloa is distilled from raw crystal sugar that contains a touch of molasses in it” [I have a sample of the sugar they use for fermenting, and it is tan in color - Dave]
2. Water. 
Mt. Waialeale is one of the wettest places on Earth. Its water is filtered through the islands volcanic soil, resulting in “Pure Mountain Rain water.”
3. Yeast, their strain was developed on Guadeloupe.
4. Single batch solid copper pot still, built in 1947 by Liberty Coppersmith (Pennsylvania).  The wash is distilled twice at 182°F maximum temperature to yield a spirit of 164 proof (82%ABV), “leaving the desirable elements but not eliminating all of them, while removing the undesirables” according to Mr. Gunter.  With an output capacity of 40,000-50,000 cases per year running flat our, Gunter says “We’d never consider going to continuous column distillation.  But we would consider adding a second pot still, for scaling up production and for redundancy in case our still springs a leak.”
5. Distilling Expertise.

For a trip report on the Kōloa distillery, see Nick Feris’ Rum Collective site The Rum Collective: Koloa Rum in Focus: The Distillery, Tasting Room & 22° North Cocktails

Though it’s not necessarily intended for sipping, Koloa Spiced Rum certainly goes down easily enough to drink solo or on the rocks, and I suspect it will find a welcome place in a pineapple mojito or a rum-coffee drink.  Already sweet, it would do well in drinks that don’t require much sweetener.  Kōloa’s head honcho, Bob Gunter impressed me with his honest humility.  He’s doing his level best to create high-quality American rum, made with the finest ingredients Kaua’i has available.  His rums are well suited to the American appetite, so do yourself a favor and bring a few souvenir bottles home from your next Hawai’i vacation.

Reviewed:  April 2011 in Miami at Rum Renaissance Festival, and again in July 2011 at The Rum Gallery, USA

© Dave Russell 2017