Hawaii is a place with a rich sugarcane history and has some of the most unique varieties on the planet. This has opened the door for distilleries like Kuleana Rum Works to introduce a distinctive kind of rum to the world and keep Hawaii’s cultural history alive through the medium of spirits.
Founder Steve Jefferson recently gave a virtual tour of the Kuleana Rum distillery and it was nothing short of epic. From sharing what makes Hawaiian rum unique, to revealing the story of the brand, Steve was extremely generous with his time.
A voyage of discovery
Kuleana Rum Works was founded after Steve and his wife sailed across the Caribbean and docked at Martinique. On visiting the Depaz Distillery, they were struck by the similarities between Hawaii and Martinique and it inspired them to return home and set up their own distillery.
A sense of responsibility to preserve the culture of Hawaii led to the brand being called Kuleana. Steve explained that the word means responsibility, but has a much deeper meaning.
It’s a combination of rights and privileges that one gets if they are willing to stand for something and that attitude is reflected in the logo of Kuleana. The emblem of the distillery is a canoe that the original Polynesian wayfinders used to find their way to Hawaii a 1000 years ago and carry ko (Hawaiian heirloom sugarcane).
Agricole making in action
At a point in the webinar, viewers got to see a live demonstration of sugarcane being cut at Kuleana by Steve’s colleague, James Dumas. It was fascinating to see the cane being hacked away and then pressed through a machine to get the juice. Interestingly, the sugarcane juice started off as green but rapidly turned to a charcoal colour in the open air.
After the cane is cut, it’s left to ferment for two days and then distilled in a hand-made Portuguese copper pot still. After maturation in different barrels, each bottle is hand-labelled and signed by the team.
A high level of craftsmanship goes into all three of Kuleana’s main offerings: HuiHui, Hawaiian Rum Agricole and Nanea. HuiHui means something that can be mixed and conjures images of constellations or groups of friends sharing a fun moment together. It can be used as a cocktail mixer and is described as having notes of guava bread pudding, green plantain and honeydew.
The Hawaiian Rum Agricole is made with fresh sugarcane juice and carries hints of cherries, Japanese plums, candy corn, starfruit and everlasting gobstopper. The Nanea is an intriguing blend of three single-barrel Caribbean rums that have been rested for two, three and four years. This results in a drink with flavours of pepper cured meat, dried mango, baking spices, cloves and marzipan.
Steve’s passion for sharing good-quality rum is commendable, as is Kuleana’s mission to celebrate Hawaiian culture and driving the conversation forward. To learn more about the distillery, be sure to check out their website.