The utterance of the word “Hawaii” conjures a few images – old Elvis movies, surfing, tropical flowers, George Clooney in The Descendants, Pearl Harbour and, this may seem strange to anyone outside Australia, pizza with pineapple on it (which we call “Hawaiian”). Rum never entered my mind, until one day I spotted a bottle of Koloa Rum which describes itself as “Hawaiian Rum”.
The Koloa Rum Company explain that its rum is distilled twice and crafted from ‘the finest sugarcane and the pure, abundant water sources on the island of Kaua`i, Hawaii… [p]ure mountain rainwater from Mt. Wai`ale`ale and the nearby mountain peaks and rainforests is captured and slowly filtered through volcanic strata before finally reaching vast underground aquifers. Kaua`i water imparts its own unique taste and “mouth feel” that perfectly complements our rum.’
Intriguing! Having had the opportunity to taste the entire range, reviews of each rum can be found below. The most impressive among them in our opinion are the Kaua’i Spiced and Kaua’i Dark – two delicious reasons why the word “Hawaii” should now conjure thoughts of rum and, in my case at least, a Pavlovian reflex! I am already conditioned.
Koloa Kaua’i White Rum (40% ABV): Nose: Oftentimes white rum floods the nose with sugar and alcohol with very little, if any, taming by wood. The Koloa is a breath of fresh air, with simple but delicate aromas that radiate sugar cane and bursts of menthol within cooked banana and licorice. Taste: The alcohol is more pronounced on the palate, and whatever weight accompanies the rum quickly vanishes into anise seed and white sugar. Finish: Not much too add really. The sugars tingle on the tongue with fumes of alcohol. Overall: This is a fine mixing rum that would probably hold up in a cocktail or mixed drink, but with its subtle character not dominate. (Score: 82/100)
Koloa Kaua’i Spice Rum (44% ABV): Nose: A strong aromatic vapour hits the nose as wood spices (cinnamon, nutmeg) come to the fore, followed closely by vanilla which lies partially hidden by sweet sugars, anise seed, cloves and bark. This almost smells like a spice cinnamon rich apple pie layered with caramel. As the rum rests that strong vapour calms, and what remains is a spiced rum that is natural rather than syrupy and not overdone with vanilla. Taste: A super sweet entry brings syrupy sugars, molasses, golden honey and an array of spices including mild vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg that recede into the finish Finish: The spices recede as brown sugar, mild coffee notes and subtle shades of chocolate develop. (Score: 87/100)
Koloa Kaua’i Gold Rum (40% ABV): Nose: Nutty, the aroma of hazelnut liqueur merges with sweet sugar cane and the gentle waft of freshly brewed coffee as calming waves of vanilla are interrupted by flecks of cocoa that burst on the nose. Taste: Retaining that nuttiness, but much milder than on the nose, the rum has a moderate-dry entry that is slightly skewed to the bitter side. Not quite as promising as the nose, the alcohol seems more prominent on the palate as the sugars are lost within a bitterness that lingers to the finish. Finish: Alcohol remains with bitter tannic wood notes. (Score: 80/100)
Koloa Kaua’i Dark Rum (40% ABV): Nose: This rum has one of the most pleasant, complex and unique bouquets I have encountered in a spirit – the aromas are delightfully smooth, beautifully integrated, balanced and captivating. The bouquet is a fusion between traditional Italian digestifs, nut based biscuits with glazed fruit and sweet medicinal notes which rekindle memories of butter menthol/strepsils lozengers. The legendary Italian digestif liqueurs, amaretto and amaro, swirl around butter menthol and a freshly opened bag of almond biscuits topped with glazed cherries and shavings of dark chocolate. Mild undertones of creamy vanilla and brown sugar soaked in coffee support shimmers of honey and mint, as that menthol progressively intensifies as the rum rests. Taste: Soft and gentle on the entry, brown sugar and rich sweetened coffee gradually become more bitter as that amaro on the nose transfers to the palate and develops with soft wood vanilla which softens a sudden whip of those sweet medicinal notes from childhood (butter menthol, strepsils). Finish: Nuttiness returns, but now a more earthy hazelnut, with oak and mildly drying ground coffee as the amaro suddenly morphs into cherry flavoured cough syrup. This is a must try rum for any spirit lover! It is delicious, distinctive, unique and very very interesting. Aloha kākou. (Score: 94/100)