Oh the lengths I’ll go to as a Tipsy Tourist. I was only on Kauai for four days, hardly enough time for so many gorgeous beaches, rain forests and gardens — not to mention the grandeur of Waimea Canyon.
And yet, I still found time to visit the Koloa Rum Company‘s tasting room. I wish I could have stopped at Nani Moon Meadery and Kauai Island Brewery, too, but alas my visit was too short. Koloa Rum’s tasting room is very close to the Lihue Airport, a mere four miles away. But it’s about 10 miles from its distillery. A visit here is all about tasting the rum. Kauai has been a sugar-cane producing area for more than a century — although the sugar cane fields are disappearing as other crops, such as coffee, become more common. Koloa celebrates the island’s history, toasting it with a collection of spirits made with local sugar. And you’ll know right away this rum is made from sugar. The dark rum is rich in the molasses flavor of dark brown sugar. The white rum is bright and the golden goes down smoothly. I liked the allspice/vanilla notes of the spice rum and was wild about the rich fresh flavor of coconut in their newest rum.
Upon arrival at the tasting room, visitors are asked to sign up for a tasting. They are conducted every half hour in a room that fits about 20. Our bartender/host, Cale, could sell fleas to a dog with all the charm he exudes as he pours the tiny samples of each rum in shot glasses. He had turned the group of strangers (though most of whom were part of a bridal party, I think) into a happy laughing bunch in a matter of seconds. The rum helped, too, of course.
There are two extra features of a tasting worth noting. Visitors have an opportunity to learn how to float dark rum on top of their mai tai — a very important skill to know, don’t you think? And when the tasting is done, the bartender hands out bites of rum cake with a chocolate rum sauce.
All that sugar! May I have another please?
Visitors come for the rum but, many like me, leave with all the t-shirts, glasses and knick-knacks they can fit in their carry-ons. Bubble wrap bottle sleeves — they call them “rum skins” — are available for those who fall in love with the rum and want to take it home. I carry wine skins in my suitcase all the time and have transported bottles of wine, liqueur and even olive oil thousands of miles without breakage. (Luckily, I discovered I can get all the Koloa Rum I want in my own neighborhood.)
Koloa operates out of an airy building on the property of Kilohana Plantation. You can come just for the rum, as we did, or stay for a ride on their train tour of their exotic property, have dinner in the restaurant or stop by the lounge. There are even luaus here.
© Text and photos Mary K. Tilghman