Manulele Distillers, home of Ko Hana Hawaiian Agricole Rum, celebrated the opening of its new tasting room in Kunia on Oahu on May 27.
The boutique distillery is distinguished for crafting rhum agricole by pressing hand-harvested, single varietals of Native Hawaiian heirloom sugarcane or "ko" in Hawaiian, that existed in Hawaii prior to Western contact; then distilling the juice into one of the world’s finest pure cane rums.
“A vast majority—almost 99 percent—of the world’s rum is made from molasses, the by-product of industrial sugar,” said Jason Brand, co-founder of Manulele Distillers LLC, in a written release. “Our process celebrates the fresh juice and individual characteristics of each cane varietal, which has taken us years to catalogue and revive.”
Sugarcane was first introduced to the Hawaiian Islands by Polynesian explorers nearly a thousand years ago. Historically, these “canoe plants” were used for food, medicine, spiritual ceremonies and decorative materials. Cane was also used to enhance dryland production of food crops, including taro and sweet potato by blocking wind, capturing mist and producing mulch. When missionaries and other Westerners started sugar plantations in the early 1800s, they bred and imported their own commercial cane hybrids with traits favored over the indigenous Hawai‘i cane to increase sugar yields.
Brand and Manulele Distillers’ co-founder Robert Dawson’s interest in the original Hawaii varieties of sugarcane began as an investigation into sugarcane as a renewable energy source. Then the plan gave way to rum production and the first batch of Ko Hana rum was produced in 2014.
Weekly Wednesday tours and tastings are currently being offered at the distillery in Kunia from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Reservations are recommended by calling 808-649-0830 or emailing [email protected].