We all know that Hawaii is a great place to drink rum, but until the last decade or so, the islands haven’t produced much rum of their own. The situation is finally changing, and riding the crest of the Hawaiian rum wave is the Kuleana Rum Works, founded in 2013 on the “Big Island” of Hawai’i itself. Kuleana makes agricole-style rum using pressed cane juice from 40 different varieties of native sugarcane, grown on their own farm and harvested by hand. Because the quality of the rum makes a dramatic difference in the taste of a cocktail, they also source rums from around the world to create their own unique blends. Regardless of their origins, all Kuleana rum is guaranteed to be free of added sugars, colorings, and flavorings, so you can taste it unadulterated in all its glory. And the two bottles you’ll find in this box, Huihui and Nanea, are glorious indeed.
Huihui means “mixed, mingled, united, or pooled together.” Huihui rum does just that, blending Kuleana’s own agricole rum with a molasses-based rum from New Guinea and a classic rhum agricole from Martinique, all of which are un-aged. The two styles of rum have very different flavor profiles. Agricole rum is typically is much more flavorful and rich. Hawaiian Rum Agricole tastes of green banana, fuji apple, stone fruits and Everlasting Gobstopper finish that lasts for weeks, while rum distilled from molasses has more of the flavors most rum drinkers are familiar with is typically much lighter, as it is usually distilled at a much higher ABV. Combining them creates a rum like no other you’ve tried. Most folks consider un-aged or “white” rum to be for mixing only, but Huihui is worth checking out on its own — neat or on the rocks with a squeeze of lime. And needless to say, it can be mixed into some phenomenal cocktails, some of the recipes of which are included in this very magazine.
Nanea is a Hawaiian word with multiple meanings, but at its core it has two definitions: “fascinating” and “to have a good time.” It’s a perfect name for Kuleana’s Nanea rum. Nanea is bilingual — much of its body comes from the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, which produced a molasses-based rum aged for three years in new oak and ex-bourbon barrels. It’s balanced out by a pair of Latin American rums: a 2-year-old from Guatemala, and a 4-year-old from El Salvador, both of which are distilled from molasses and aged in ex-bourbon barrels. Many rums from Latin American countries have sugar added after distillation, so it’s a treat to be able to taste these “naked,” as it were. Nanea makes terrific cocktails (look to our recipe guide for inspiration, or create your own), but it’s also a fine sipping rum — 2-4 years aged in tropical climates translates to a much more mature and rounded spirit than, say, whiskeys aged for the same amount of time in Kentucky or Scotland.
Huihui and Nanea are blended in Hawaii by Kuleana, lending a unique twist of the islands to what’s in the bottle. Take a sip and you’ll be able to hear gentle waves lapping the shore, see the sun as it sinks below the horizon, feel the warm breeze on your cheeks. Until we can find a genie in a bottle to magically transport you to Hawaii, these bottles are the next best thing.