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Kōloa Kaua`i Spice Hawaiian Rum

Review: Kōloa Kaua`i Spice Hawaiian Rum 78.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on September 8, 2011

Photo Courtesy Kōloa Rum Company

Nestled on the Island of Kaua`i, the Kōloa Rum Company is making history. It started ten 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 obtained a license to distill their rum. The first legally distilled rum in the Island’s history.

I have previous reviewed the Kōloa Kaua`i White Hawaiian Rum, the Kōloa Kaua`i Gold Hawaiian Rum, and the Kōloa Kaua`i Dark Hawaiian Rum. In each case I have marveled that such a young company was able to produce rums of such quality. Early this summer the Kōloa Rum Company sent me a sample of their new spice rum and that rum is the subject of this review.

In the Bottle 4/5

The Kōloa Spice Rum is presented in a typical tall bar room style bottle which is the same as the previous Kōloa rums I have reviewed. The only difference is in the label from one rum type to the next. The design is clean and minimalistic but not unattractive. I should note that the label on the back of the bottle provides a short historical paragraph regarding Hawaii’s first in sugar plantation Kōloa Town from which The Kōloa Rum Company derived its name.

In the Glass  8/10

I poured a small sample of the Kōloa Spice Rum into my glencairn glass and began my review with a good look at the rum before I began to nose it. It is a pleasing orange-straw coloured spirit. I gave my glass a tilt and a slow swirl and discovered an oily sheen on the inside of the glass which gave up slender legs that slowly ran back down into the rum.

The actual base material for the distillation of the Kōloa Spice Rum is not molasses, but rather the Gay and Robinson Plantation crystallized sugar, and I have been informed that this sugar has a higher than normal molasses content. From this distillate, and using a vintage copper pot still, all of the Kōloa Rum is made in a batch style. The Spice Rum, which is a non aged ‘fresh’ rum, is enhanced with caramelized sugar from the Gay and Robinson Plantation (the same sugar as is used in the distillation) as well as a secret spice recipe. In a way it is a throwback style of rum made in the manner and style of the past when it was entirely the blender’s mastery that was needed to sooth and flavour the spirit.

Indeed, the initial nose is very pleasant with that sweet caramelized sugar rising into the air with a variety of spices. Vanilla and nutmeg seem prevalent, and I detect cinnamon and cloves in the air as well. Other spices are indistinct but I seem to sense allspice, and orange peel in the breezes as well. There is more going on in these breezes than I can identify, but the overall impression I have is of a lightly sweet vanilla and spice rum which is pleasing to nose. The only drawback is a light astringency which keeps the score from going higher.

In the Mouth 47/60

The rum carries a pervasive sweetness onto the palate with the flavour of brown sugar leading the way. The spices I sensed on the nose are all in the flavour profile, allspice, nutmeg, lots of vanilla, cinnamon and cloves. There are other flavours swimming around as well, dashes of ginger and cardamom, and a vague earthy bitterness which I seem to think is Angelica root as it reminds me of the earthy bitterness I encounter in Gin (perhaps there is a little juniper in the spice mixture). I even taste bits of root beer weaving briefly through the flavour profile.

The result is a sweet spicy bombshell of flavour. But… (and I hate it when I have to say but) the sweetness is just too much. In a lot of ways this spice rum seems to be more of a  spice rum syrup. The sweetness becomes cloying in a hurry, and I find I must mix rather than sip. Two large ice-cubes help with the sweetness, but they do not quell it to the extent which I would like.

In the Throat 11.5/15

The finish is cloyingly sweet, however some of the more pungent spices do appear stronger in the finish than they did on the palate. I taste root beer again which is welcome as is a light bitterness which is trying to soothe the penetrating sweetness.

The Afterburn 8/10

The Kōloa Kaua`i Spice Hawaiian Rum never really gets off the ground for me as a sipping style rum. The sweet caramel seems at odds with some of the more pungent spices in the mix. Fortunately I was able to make a few cocktails which were much more enjoyable. As a mixing rum, the Kōloa Spice becomes quite nice, and those spices which seemed at odds when sipped neat harmonize very well in the cocktail. Please enjoy each of the spiced rum cocktails I have suggested below.

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


Suggested Recipes

Kōloa Raspberry Smooch

Kōloa Spice Punch

1 1/2 oz Kōloa Kaua`i Spice Hawaiian Rum
4 oz Orange Juice
1 oz Cranberry Juice
1/2 oz sugar syrup

Fruit wedge

Build in an ice filled Collins glass
Layer the cocktail pouring the cranberry and rum first
Then complete with orange juice
Garnish with a citrus fruit wedge

Kōloa Raspberry Smooch

1 1/2 oz Kōloa Kaua`i Spice Hawaiian Rum
1/2 oz Raspberry Syrup
6 oz Pineapple Juice
Frozen Raspberry for garnish

Build in a tall Highball glass over ice
Garnish with a Frozen Raspberry (if desired)

Enjoy these cocktails responsibly!


My Final Score is out of 100 and you may (loosely) interpret the score 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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