Hana Hou is a Hawaiian phrase that means "again" or "encore". Since we last visited with Koloa Rum Company in 2012, the Kaua'i-based distiller has introduced two new products: a coconut-flavored rum, and a Ready To Drink (RTD) Rum Punch cocktail. Having spent much time growing up on Kaua'i, it only made sense to visit KRC to check out the new products during our annual return to the island - a hana hou for both Koloa Rum and The Garden Isle, which we say without qualification is the "world's best place" (although we may be somewhat biased).
The skies all around the island on the day of our visit were heavy with the threat of rain, which some locals call "Kaua'i's blessing". Ua (rain) was so endeared to ancient Hawaiians that there are no less than 40 words recorded to describe it, from ho'okile (fine, light rain) to ua ho'e'ele (showering rain). In spite of the threat of rain, we sat outside with KRC President Bob and Director of Business & Public Relations Jeanne in the shadow of a patch of tall cane adjacent the Koloa Rum Company Tasting Room and Company Store.
If there's one thing that's clear after our conversation, it's that in addition to Kaua'i sugar and the blessing of ua, the primary ingredient in KRC's products is passion. Bob and Jeanne are two folks who certainly know rum (Bob spoke at length about the process of rum making and the company's initiative to once again grow sugar commercially on Kaua'i) and know the island itself (we were also amazed at Jeanne's breadth and depth of knowledge about the local business community and the ins and outs of working with the county liquor board, which maintains oversight of the tasting room). Of course, research and development of new products is proprietary, but Bob emphasized that KRC wanted to distinguish their Coconut Rum by using only natural coconut flavor instead of a synthetic.
We were soon blessed by ua hekili (big rain drops), and ventured inside to sample the new Kaua'i Coconut Rum. After a small sample (that's all it really takes when drinking rum neat; regulations restrict KRC to offering tastings of their products unmixed, although visitors can mix the rum themselves) Jeanne asked for our honest opinion. We're hardly career rum tasters, unable to use words like "mouthfeel" with a straight face, but the first thing we noticed was that the Coconut Rum was, well, rum. The flavor in KRC's Coconut Rum doesn't mask the qualities appreciated by ardent rum aficionados. While the goal of many cloyingly sweet coconut rums seems to be to bottle intoxicating coconut candy, Kaua'i Coconut Rum is first and foremost a high-quality rum, with a pleasant halo of coconut that enhances but never upstages. Jeanne shared that many visitors who are self-proclaimed not to be "rum drinkers" leave the tasting room with their mind changed about rum. On the opposite end of the tasting spectrum, rum purists who undervalue flavored rums will learn that Kaua'i Coconut Rum is a flavored rum for rum fans.
Having already sampled KRC's Hawaiian Rum Punch onboard en route to Kaua'i (Hawaiian Rum Punch is served complimentary onboard select Hawaiian Airlines flights between the Mainland and Hawai'i) we jumped at the opportunity to purchase a bottle to take home (priced between $14-$17 at most outlets in Hawai'i and at some online retailers). The juice mix of Passion, Orange, and Guava (locally known by its acronym, POG) is a flavor well known to locals and frequent visitors alike, and it pairs well with the crisp, clean Kaua'i White Rum (although we like it best over ice with a float of Kaua'i Dark Rum for an extra kick).
We confess that it pulls the heart strings to learn of a local Kaua'i company making good on the world rum market in a proud testament to the dedication and tenacity of her people and the quality of ingredients produced by her 'aina (land), but the magnificence of this rum can easily be appreciated by both visitors (malihini) and residents (kama'aina); rum novices and rum experts alike. Whether seeking for another round of Hawaiian Rum Punch, or another new product development from the growing product line at Koloa Rum Company, it's certainly cause for a hearty hana hou!
Have you tried Koloa Rum? Leave a comment below!