A Taste of Hawaii - Barrel to Bottle Welcomes Kolo'a Rum Founder Bob Gunter

Mahalo! Here at Barrel to Bottle, we’ve been touting rum for years. This week, we’re sitting down with Bob Gunter, President and CEO of Kolo’a Rum. Hawaii’s remoteness presents challenges in sourcing equipment and ingredients. Environmental standards in Hawaii also mean using molasses for the rum is not a viable option.

Kolo’a’s white rum is the foundation for all of their other rums. This is how it comes out of the still, essentially. Their strategy was to start with a white rum and then move on to developing flavored rums. The coconut rum took two years to formulate; they went through multiple ways to get the coconut flavor before finding a company that was distilling coconut for the cosmetics industry. It makes a great, lighter version of a piña colada. For the gold rum, they use sugar that has been slightly caramelized to attain that gold cover.

The Gold Rum is also the base for the Spice Rum, which of course contains a secret spice mixture. There is a lot of prominent nutmeg and cinnamon though. They went up and down with the proof on this rum, trying to dial in where the flavors really marry. The Dark Rum is probably the most well-known Kolo’a Rum, it floats well on a tropical cocktail and is also a key ingredient in their Rum Cake.

Hawaii, of course, has a well-respected coffee industry. The Kolo’a Coffee Rum uses a special roast and grind from Kauai Coffee Company. They use it to make a cold brew coffee that is added to the white rum with some cane sugar.  The Cacao Rum is their newest rum, made with locally grown Kauai cacao.

Finally today, a 5 year single barrel at 120 proof. The rickhouse is not temperature controlled, so the barrels are in an expanded state at all times. Once they’re able to expand their capacity, Kolo’a would like to experiment with some other barrel finishes, but for now it’s single-use bourbon barrels from Heaven Hill.

Roger talks about POG quite a bit on the podcast. POG (passionfruit, orange and guava) is basically the state breakfast drink of Hawaii. It’s also the basis of Kolo’a’s Rum Punch RTD and it’s also the basis for the signature complimentary cocktail on Hawaiian Airlines.  

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