Last week, Dane and I headed toward the North Shore of Oahu to checking out the KōHana Rum Distillery + Tasting Room in Kunia. I didn’t really know what to expect, but what we got was an amazing tour, tasting and a whole heck of a lot of cool information about the entire rum making process. If you live on Oahu or are planning a trip, definitely consider making a stop at KōHana Rum!
Touring KōHana Rum Distillery + Tasting Room
We popped into KōHana Rum Distillery + Tasting Room on a Sunday afternoon and it was perfect – not too crowded, but a few other families there along for the same tour and tasting. To note, it’s a kid friendly place, so feel free to bring the whole family if so inclined — of course, no tasting for anyone under 21 🙂
We started by taking a look around the tasting room and learning all about the history of the building, which was amazing. Everything has been restored, but all the old rooms have been kept intact. Next, we headed out back to see the neighboring farm and where the sugarcane is grown out in the distance. We saw the tilapia tanks with the working aquaponics set-up. KōHana partners with local farmers on Oahu to foster sustainability, so we saw rows upon rows of lettuce growing thanks to all the work the tilapia were doing in their tanks. If you’ve never seen aquaponics at work – it’s really neat!
From there, we were able to walk to the sugarcane “garden” where they keep the different assortments of cane that are grown out in the fields. They have 50 varietals of sugarcane, some of which was originally brought over by Polynesians 1,000 years ago. Because KōHana harvests their sugarcane using the agricole method – a French term for agriculture rum, a style originally distilled in the French Caribbean islands from freshly squeezed sugar cane juice rather than molasses – there is no burning of the fields. Each varietal of cane grown takes about 12 months to mature and then is harvested by hand.
After we got to see the sugarcane up close, it was time to move on to the distilling room, where we got to see the magic happening! For the white rum (Kea), it takes about three months from farm to bottle, which was majorly impressive to me. In addition to Kea, KōHana also sells Koho, a darker rum that is aged in a Woodford Reserve barrel shipped in from Kentucky and Koa, a dark rum finished in a Madeira wine barrel from Spain. Because KōHana is a small batch rum distillery, they are able to do quite a bit of experimenting with rum aging, barrels and sugarcane varietals to add different flavors. They also make Kokoleka, a chocolate dessert liquer made by combining a 50 pound bag of cacao soaked with local honey into the distilled cane juice.
At the end, we got to try all of their products and I was kind of amazed by how very, very different they all were! My favorite was the Koho, since it had a very distinct bourbon flavor. Because of the method used to harvest and distill, the rums did not have a traditional rum flavor, but rather 4 distinct and unique tastes. I was pleasantly surprised!
For locals on Oahu, take Kunia Road and you’ll run into it. For visitors, take H1 West to the Kunia Road exit 5B and turn right. That will put you on Kunia Road and you’ll see it on the left hand side of the road.
Ready to visit? Book a tour!