Best Hawaii Distilleries: Discover Your New Favorite Spirit At These Top Hawaii Distilleries
Many imbibing vacationers think of Mai Tais as the quintessential Hawaiian cocktail. But really, Mai Tais are about as Hawaiian as a coqui frog. They may be everywhere in Hawaii, but they originated elsewhere.
Luckily, fans of the hard stuff won’t have to go far to find genuine, made-in-Hawaii spirits. Top-notch distilleries are scattered throughout the state, producing everything from Taro Vodka to Okolehao— the only spirit indigenous to the islands. Discover your new favorite liquor— or a tropical cocktail recipe to get you through the next winter— at these top Hawaii distilleries.
883 Haliimaile Road, Makawao
Haliimaile Distilling is a micro-distillery with a big following. This distillery produces several award-winning spirits, including Fid Street Gin, Paniolo Whiskey, Mahina Premium Rum, and, most notably, Pau Vodka. With sustainability and community at its core, Haliimaile Distillery relies heavily on the bounty of pineapple from the nearby Maui Gold Pineapple Plantation. All of Haliimaile Distilling’s spirits are made on-location in small batches. You can see where the magic happens (and taste it, too!) on a tour of the distillery’s operations in a plantation-era Quonset hut.
605 Lipoa Parkway, Kihei
Kupu Spirits is an offshoot of Maui Brewing Company— Hawaii’s largest craft brewery. The venture launched just a few years ago, and several of Kupu’s spirits have already earned a slew of high-profile awards. Kupu’s distillers draw inspiration from local ingredients to create a selection of gin, amaro, whiskey, and canned cocktails. Tours of Maui Brewing Company’s facilities are available daily. You’ll get a peek at the distilling area, but the tour emphasizes MBC’s craft beer operations.
4051 Omaopio Road, Kula
Hawaii Sea Spirits is the birthplace of world-famous Ocean Vodka— the only vodka made from deep ocean mineral water sourced 3,000 feet below the surface. Situated on 80 acres in Upcountry, Hawaii Sea Spirits grows organic sugarcane to use in the distilling process. In addition to Ocean Vodka, the distillery produces organic rum and gin. Hawaii Sea Spirits has become one of Upcountry’s most popular attractions, lauded for its beautiful views, tours, tastings, and cafe.
3275 Baldwin Avenue, Makawao
Did you know that blue agave plants grow bigger and sweeter in Upcountry Maui than in Mexico? Paul Turner— the owner of Waikulu Distillery— discovered this after planting 200 baby agave plants almost a decade ago. Now, Waikulu Distillery is a full-fledged agave spirit operation with over 3,000 agave plants. Stop by the distillery between 11 am and 3 pm Monday through Friday to purchase a bottle, wander the rows of towering agave plants, or peek in at distillery operations. Waikulu Distillery is still awaiting county approval to host tastings, but you can try Waikulu’s premium agave spirits in several Upcountry restaurants like Colleen’s and Polli’s.
The masterminds behind Hanalei Spirits are intent on using as many Kauai-grown ingredients as possible. The mission spurred Hanalei Spirits to produce creative, seasonal, small-batch spirits like Taro Vodka and Lillikoicello. Hanalei Spirits sits on several acres of farmland, where the proprietors grow and harvest ti leaf, lilikoi, kalo, and ginger to use in the distilling process. To tour the grounds and distillery, book an appointment in advance.
3-2087 Kaumualii Highway, Lihue
The first batch of Kōloa Rum was bottled in 2009. Since then, Kōloa Rum has grown to be one of the most recognizable spirit companies in Hawaii— after all, Hawaiian Airlines usually hands out little bottles of Kōloa Rum Punch on flights from the mainland. Spirits here are crafted with water from Mount Waiʻaleʻale and pure cane sugar. You can sample Koloa’s celebrated rum and ready-to-drink cocktails at the Kōloa tasting room at Kilohana Plantation.
69-201 Waikoloa Beach Drive, Waikoloa (Kuleana Rum Shack)
This ohana-run distillery has a 40-acre farm on the northern tip of the Big Island, where over three dozen different sugarcane varieties are grown to create Hawaiian rum Agricole. Kuleana Rum also creates innovative blends with rums sourced from around the world. You can sample Kuleana’s rums, expertly crafted cocktails, and delectable eats at the Kuleana Rum Shack in Waikoloa.
74-5467 Kaiwi Street Unit 1-5, Kailua-Kona
Located in the heart of Kona Town, 12th Hawaii Distiller was the first distillery to open on the Big Island in the 1950s. But that’s not the only thing that makes this small distillery unique. 12th Hawaii uses raw Hawaiian honey as a critical ingredient in its four spirits. The varied flavors of honey result in complexity unique to each bottle. What’s more, this distillery emphasizes doing things the right way— honey is sourced from a local beekeeper who harvests organically, and each spirit is crafted, bottled, and labeled by hand. You can stop in for a tasting at 12th Hawaii’s distillery and retail shop in Kona.
92-1770 Kunia Road, Kunia Camp
Tucked in the countryside between Honolulu and Oahu’s North Shore, Kō Hana Distillers produces Agricole rum using Hawaiian sugarcane. The distillers at Kō Hana like to compare their appreciation for sugarcane to a winery’s admiration of grapes. Hawaiian cane varieties have less sugar and a unique flavor, which is evident in Kō Hana’s collection of rums. Ko Hana boasts a bonafide farm-to-bottle operation. Several types of sugarcane are grown in fields surrounding the distillery. The cane is then hand-harvested, pressed to juice, and distilled. Book a distillery tour to sample Kō Hana’s distinctive Agricole rums and fresh-pressed sugarcane juice.
905 Kapaa Quarry Place, Kailua
Spirits at this small, veteran-owned distillery are handcrafted with water sourced from Oahu’s lush Koʻolau Range— one of the purest water sources in the world. Because the water in Hawaii is filtered through soil and volcanic rock, it retains excellent minerality and purity, giving Ko’olau’s spirits a smoother flavor. The most popular of Koʻolau’s trio of spirits is Old Pali Road, a whiskey distilled from locally-sourced corn and malted barley, then blended with an aged American whiskey. In addition, Koʻolau Distillery offers hour-long distillery tours and whiskey tastings.
Hawaii Kai, Oahu
When Island Distillers opened its doors in 2008, it became the first craft distillery to set up shop on Oahu. After spending years perfecting his distilling practice in the Caribbean, founder Dave Flintstone returned to Hawaii with the dream of making premium spirits with Hawaiian flair. Today, Island Distillers is best known for its HAPA vodkas. HAPA— “part Hawaiian”— is made from Hawaiian sugarcane and blended with a Brazilian sugar spirit, hence the moniker. Island Distillers also proudly produces Okolehao, Hawaii’s only indigenous liquor, made from fermented ti root. Island Distillers is closed to the public, but you can find their spirits in grocery stores and bars across the state.
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