Sometimes it’s especially fun to go shopping when there’s award-winning rum on the premises. Koloa Rum Co., located at Kilohana Plantation at 3-2087 Kaumaali‘i Highway between Lihu‘e and Puhi, is a treasure trove of Kaua‘i-made sauces, jams, T-shirts, hats, paintings, pottery, jewelry, glassware, plateware and — oh yes, rum.
At the check-out counter in the roomy gift shop (attached to the tasting room!) you can find Kaua‘i Cigar Co. selections of hand-rolled Island Prince cigars made with Kaua‘i-grown tobacco.
With Mother’s Day and Father’s Day just around the corner, special sections have been set up with manly hats, silver flasks and T-shirts with pirate motifs — a big seller in an establishment that makes rum — for Father’s Day.
For Mother’s Day, there are purple T-shirts and pink coffee cups. Each sports a print of a tiara and the word “Rumpress” — for rum and princess.
“We primarily show artists from the island,” manager Val Smith says, showing off the store’s wealth of delicate glassware, colorful pottery, and prints and original paintings.
Unique jewelry lines velvet shelves beneath the front counter.
“We try to do everything local. We have a local woman who makes wine charms and rum sugar scrubs,” Smith says.
Artists often come to visit, to demonstrate their wares or show on-island and off-island visitors how to play a tune on one of the hand-crafted nose flutes also for sale.
Local soap maker Auntie Ina’s soaps made with rums are on display, too, near the Kukui jams and jellies.
An enormous selection of island-inspired T-shirts line store shelves.
“Our rum cake with rum fudge sauce,” she begins, and stops herself, thinking of the right word to describe them. Extraordinary? She nods yes.
The taste is enough to make many customers buy bags and boxes of the unique desserts and sauces. Locally made coffees infused with a hint of rum are on sale, too.
A new best-seller is the company’s Mai Tai Cocktail mix made with local ingredients — with or without rum.
To make an hour of it, shoppers often stop in the gift shop first or the rum tasting room next door first.
At the rum tasting room, lively crowds line up at the long bar to taste the company’s white, gold, dark and spiced rums.
Visitors are then asked to create their own mai tai with the company’s mai tai mix and whatever rums they have not finished off at the free tasting.
Of course, one must be 21 years old to enter the tasting room. After a taste of rum, visitors are also offered a sample-sized slice of rum cake with that famous rum fudge sauce.
For a company that’s only been in existence since 2009, its artisanal, single-batch Hawaiian rums made at its distillery in Kalaheo have won a surprising number of awards.
Edible Hawaiian Islands honored the company in 2010, just a year after it opened for business as Kaua‘i’s only licensed distillery.
Koloa Rum Co.’s Kaua‘i Dark Rum, with its heady hint of vanilla, won the gold medal at the prestigious Rum Renaissance Festival in 2010, too.
The company later won bronze and silver awards for their white and gold rums at the Polished Palate International Rum Competition.
Smith says the dark rum is the best-seller, but their recently introduced spiced rum is catching up fast. Next year, they are considering introducing a coconut rum.
For shoppers who don’t want to buy full-size bottles, the white, gold, dark and spiced rums also are available in miniature, single-serve bottles beneath the front counter — the perfect size for spring and summer gift baskets and winter stocking stuffers.
Smith admits she likes her job.
“It feels good. Everybody’s coming in, and they’re happy,” she says.
Smith says shoppers are especially delighted when they discover Koloa Rum Co. is not just a shop lined with bottles of rum, but is full of island-made treasures for the whole family.
For store and tasting room hours, directions and also rum-inspired recipes, visit www.koloarum.com.