Distillery to start up July 1 on Maui
PA'IA, Maui Production is to begin July 1 at a new rum distillery on Maui, the first in more than 20 years on the Valley Island.
Blessing ceremonies for Kolani Distillers were held Friday in a corner of the Pa'ia sugar mill.
Founder Paul Case said he plans a super-premium rum that will rely on Hawai'i ingredients. Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar will provide the sugars, water will come from 'Iao Valley, and local flavorings will be used, including local vanilla, coconut, banana, coffee, liliko'i and mango, he said.
Maui sugar and water are the world's best ingredients for rum, said Case, a retired United Artists executive who had been visiting Maui from Colorado for more than 20 years.
The first bottles of unaged light rum will go on sale Sept. 1. But it will take years to get the first aged rums onto shelves.
Kolani intends its rum to retail for $19 per 750-milliliter bottle, well above the $11-$16 range of Bacardi, which dominates the world market, but below the prices of some super premiums.
Case and his son and partner, Brian, plan to make the distillery a tourist stop for downhill bicyclists and others wandering through Pa'ia.
Until the rum production is up and running, the Kolani business plan includes other work to provide a revenue stream. Paradise Beverage, which owns the Hana Bay brand, will send its raw rum, which is distilled out of state, to Kolani for finishing and bottling.
Seagram's built a distillery at Pu'unene in the late 1960s but it was not successful and the building was torn down this spring.
In aiming for the super-premium market, Case said he wants to go back to the days of Kamehameha the Great, who was said to be an aficionado of rum after being introduced to it by a sea captain.
According to a historical survey the Cases commissioned, the high chief had stills erected around the islands. Two grades were made, one for ali'i and a lesser one for the maka'ainana, or working people.
Production of the chiefly high-quality rum was brought to an end when Kamehameha died in 1819 and missionaries, who did not approve of rum, arrived two years later.
"It's come full circle, the Alexanders and the Baldwins," said Robert Sasaki, president of A&B Properties, landlord of Kolani.
Five generations ago, the Alexanders and Baldwins were prohibitionists.
Today, Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Co., founded by a second-generation Alexander and a second-generation Baldwin, are helping the Cases to try again to put Maui on the rum map.