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Kōloa Kaua`i Gold Hawaiian Rum

Review: Kōloa Kaua`i Gold Hawaiian Rum 82/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on August 19, 2010

Harvesting the Cane at Gay and Robinson (Photo Courtesy Jeanne Toulon)

Nestled on the Island of Kaua`i, the Kōloa Rum Company is making history. It started nine years ago when the company was first incorporated. A seven-year struggle through red tape and government bureaucracy ensued before the necessary permits and licenses were granted, and finally on April 1, 2009, the Kōloa Rum Company was granted a license to distill their rum. The first legally distilled rum in the Island’s history.

The Kōloa Rum Company 1210 gallon Copper Still (Photo courtesy Jeanne Toulon)

The Kōloa rums are not made from traditional molasses, rather they are distilled from the crystallized sugar produced at the local Gay and Robinson Sugar Factory. This sugar, produced from 100% Kaua`i cane, has a higher than normal molasses content,  and as such, the sugar is a good starting point for making artisan rum. All of the rum is distilled using a vintage 1210 gallon copper pot still which was purchased in Kentucky, and transported first by train, and then by boat all the way to Hawaii.

My introduction to the Kōloa Rum Company’s Hawaiian rums was at Rum Renaissance in Miami, Florida. The Kōloa Dark Rum won a Gold Medal at the festival in the Rum XP Tasting Competition, and this was my first clue that something special might be happening in Hawaii. A gold medal rum, produced by a company which was just beginning to spread its wings…. I decided to investigate.

After contacting the Kōloa Rum Company, I was sent samples of their entire range for my review. I decided to start the review series with the Kōloa Kaua`i Gold Hawaiian Rum.

In the Bottle 4/5

As you can see the Kōloa Gold Rum is presented in a typical flagon style bottle. A nifty map of the Hawaiian Islands is printed on the white foil which seals the plastic screw cap, and the front label shows an illustration of the Kōloa Rum Company plantation style tasting room which has recently been opened.

In the Glass 8.5/10

The Kōloa Gold Rum is a pale amber/gold spirit which has achieved its color by the addition of caramelized sugar; the same sugar (direct from the Gay and Robinson Sugar Plantation) which is used as the base product for the distillation of the Kōloa rums. I was given a sample of this sugar by Jeanne Toulon, Director of Public Relations, for the Kōloa Rum Company, and learned that the pale crystallized sugar has a wonderful sweet molasses scent and flavour. This same aroma was very evident when nosing the gold rum. The nose of the rum also displays evidence of banana peel, citrus zest, and the grassy vegetal tones of a fresh spirit which has not been aged in oak. The rum seems much more mellow and approachable than I would have suspected given that it was bottled with no barrel aging.

In the Mouth 48.5/60

A surprising mild flavour is the initial impression I received when I sipped the gold rum for the first time. Again the flavour of the Gay and Robinson crystallized sugar comes though very clearly. It is a honeyed, caramel flavour which is sweet and inviting. Citrus zest, and light peppery spices follow with perhaps a little plantain or banana in the mid palate. The grassy vegetal flavours of the still are in evidence, but they are mild do not detract from the spirit. I believe the caramelized sugar is serving as an effective agent to ensure the rum flavour stays consistently soft and somewhat sweet.

I found the addition of a single ice-cube added a nice creaminess to the rum which made the experience more enjoyable when sipping.

In the Throat 12/15

The finish was smooth, although perhaps a tad sweet. Although the rum was enjoyable to sip, the ending can become a little cloying if it is sipped without ice. Caramel, honey and light peppery zest seemed to leave their marks in my throat in that order of dominance.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

The Kōloa Kaua`i Gold Hawaiian Rum is quite remarkable. The Kōloa Rum Company has been producing rum for only a short while, and already they are producing a solid gold rum which displays an inviting aroma, an approachable sweet flavour, and a solid underlying structure.  I say… well done!

If you are interested in comparing more scores, here is a link to my other published Rum Reviews.


Suggested Recipes

A rum from Hawaii deserves to be represented by a cocktail with a Pacific Island flair. I thought Rum and Pineapple Juice would be a nice starting point for a such a cocktail. The addition of a bit of Lemon Juice to provide a touch of citrus bite would, I think, complete such a cocktail. I tried to keep things simple, and delicious.

The Iced Kaua`i Cocktail

2 oz Kōloa Gold Rum
1 1/2 oz Pineapple Juice
1/4 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
Simple Syrup to taste

1/2 Glass of cracked Ice

Pour the first four ingredients into a metal shaker with ice
Shake until the metal shaker frosts
Strain everything into a suitable glass half filled with cracked ice

Garnish with fresh Pineapple


You may (loosely) interpret the scores as follows.

0-25     A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49   Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59  You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69   Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74    Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79    You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84    We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89    Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94    Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+       I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

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