Just got a pre-launch tasting of a new vodka from Hawaii. And my partner, Mark, took the tour of the distillery. This one is actually made (distilled, cut, bottled, labeled, packaged) in Hawaii on Oahu, near Sand Island. Many “made in Hawaii” brands are technically not entirely made in Hawaii, but this is the real deal.
This vodka is called, quite appropriately “Hawaiian Vodka.” The distillery is located in a small 1200 square foot warehouse just down the road from Honolulu International Airport and on the way to Waikiki. The owner, Dave Flintstone, started in Maui as a scuba instructor (and not a “brontosauraus bulldozer driver!”) via the carribean where he learned the art of distilling rum. He was quite shocked to learn that there was very little distillation going on in Hawaii (Koloa Rum from Kauai, Old Lahaina and Maui Rum, Pau Vodka from Maui, and Ocean Vodka) so he set out to make a more popular vodka on Maui. A year and half later, he moved to Oahu.
Water is the most important ingredient in vodka as far as smoothness and taste. Hawaii has vast amounts of natural aquifers that are filtered by lava cinders from the ancient volcanos now extinct. If you ever had pure Hawaiian Water, it is smooth and soft. Hawaiian Vodka uses a combination of cane sugar, cane juice, and molasses to get the low wine or “stuff you ferment”. Dave’s Vodka is distilled at 190 proof, using a small copper pot still, with both a “swan-neck” top – like the ones you see in Scotland to make single malts and “plate-top”- kind of what you see in bourbon distilleries. It is then cut to 80 proof and bottled (4 at a time) with a special jet system that shoots a stream of air into the bottle as the vodka is filled. Dave feels it gives his vodka a little softer feel. The cap goes on and Dave hand labels all the bottles using a kind of gig that he has to do twice, once for the front lower label and a second for the back and image label. Hand packed into 12pack cases of 750ml bottles and sent out to just a few retailers lucky enough to get their hands on it. It’s extremely limited quantities.
My impressions were:
Sight: clear, but when swirled it has a slight viscosity to it that made it cling to the glass
Nose: clean, slight citrus or flowery smells that many people find in their vodkas – I like it that way as flavor can be added with lemon or lime and other liqueurs.
First impression: smooth, no burn or harsh taste. Clean – no sweetness to it even though it is made from cane and sugar.
Finish: also clean and smooth.
Final thought: although it is a very neutral vodka, I don’t believe it would do well in a mixed drink. It’s better straight, chilled or on the rocks which exemplifies the natural smoothness. Leave the mixing to Skyy and Absolut as the alcohol “feel” of these vodkas translates better.
Like the lifestyle of Hawaii, this is a spirit that captures that – easy going, laid back, smooth. Locally made in Hawaii using Hawaiian Water by a cool guy, Dave Flintstone, in a small upstart distillery. If you would like to inquire about Hawaiian Vodka, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and he is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/hawaiianvodka