Dagger Club KILA Rum

This special release of an aged Kō Hana rum from O’ahu comes via a partnership with our friends at Skull & Crown Trading Company and their Dagger Club. Issued at a fab 61% ABV, you’re going to taste every bit of the Pakaweli sugarcane spirit aged 2 years and 7 months in the barrel (second use American Oak, char level 2). It’s delicious stuff, with some very fine spice notes.

Aged rums from Kō Hana don’t come around every day and come in a 375 ml bottle at a premium price. Sometimes you have to splurge.

If you’re a Honolulu local, you can get pours at Skull & Crown Trading Company, one of the best tiki bars on planet Earth, and also at Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco. Don’t procrastinate, though, these won’t last long.

Bottles are available for purchase for a limited time through a secret link to Kō Hana’s website. DM @skullandcrowntradingco for the link.

Hawaiian Rum Agricole Shootout

“Hawaiian Rum Agricole”

The term is intended to help consumers understand that these rums are made from sugar cane juice, not molasses, and so have a different taste from most rums in the marketplace. Though, “agricole” is very much a loaded and controversial term since many people feel it should only apply to AOC Rhum Agricole made in French islands such as Martinique and Guadeloupe. The Hawaiian distillers I do believe respect where those producers are coming from and do attempt to forge a middle-ground by using the term “Hawaiian Rum Agricole”, though the “rum not rhum” distinction seems like the smallest of differences.

In any case, I picked up a bottle of Kō Hana Kea and decided to do a blind taste test against Kuleana’s Hawaiian Rum Agricole and a bottle of Rhum JM from Martinique. It was quite easy to taste the grassier flavors of the JM, which I do enjoy in cocktails. But to me the two Hawaiian rums had a deeper set of flavors and both had a richer mouthfeel and had a nice mix of sweet and savory notes. In terms of the blind test I leaned a little bit in favoring the Kuleana – but it was quite a close contest. Both do very well in a glass by themselves or in a cocktail, and I previously covered how I think the Kuleana works great as an accept rum with others inside a Mai Tai.

The two rums from Hawai’i are really great and I think that it is wonderful to see a burgeoning rum industry coming back in the state. Kuleana’s expression doesn’t specify a specific cane varietal, whereas Kō Hana very much leans into labeling the various varietals with their bottlings. Two different approaches for the two producers, giving consumers a choice.

Top 10 Mai Tais of 2022

The list includes commercial restaurants and bars, plus Mai Tais we had at home tiki bars and events. You can view the full list and additional details on our page:
Top 10 Mai Tais of 2022

10: The Rum House

Trader Nic’s Mai Tai, named after the head bartender, features Hamilton Jamaican Pot Still Black and unaged Rhum JM, plus a tiny float of OFTD.

9: Dealer’s Choice Mai Tai by Adrian Castañeda at The Kon-Tiki Room

Adrian used 1 oz of Worthy Park Kon-Tiki Single Barrel (aged 5 yrs, cask strength), along with ½ oz each of Worthy Park 109 and Uruapan Charandra Anejo.

8: Sunken Harbor Club

Everything they say is true! The famed Mai Tai created by Garret Richard for Sunken Harbor Club in Brooklyn is indeed a top-notch Mai Tai.

7: The Kon-Tiki Single Barrel Mai Tai

This version with Kon-Tiki’s special single barrel release from Worthy Park was totally fantastic.

6: Dr. Funk (original blend)

The original rum blend in the Dr. Funk Mai Tai featured two of our favorite rums, Appleton 12 and Smith & Cross.

5: Smuggler’s Cove with Appleton and Hamilton Rums

We thank bartender Steven Liles for indulging us with the custom order and for making a great Mai Tai.

4: Hale Pele

Who knew that a combination of inexpensive Jamaican rums like Coruba Dark and Wray & Nephew Overproof could be so flavorful and memorable?

3: Maunakea Mai Tai at Skull & Crown Trading Co.

Skull & Crown three Mai Tais on their menu but we prefer this traditional 1944 style Mai Tai made with Appleton 12, Clement Select Barrel, Smith & Cross Jamaican Rum.

2: Classic Mai Tai with Appleton and Hamilton Rums by Skipper Nate at Trader Sam’s

I found myself at the bar at Trader Sam’s on a slow afternoon and Skipper Nate totally willing to work with me to find the very best Mai Tai that could be made on the premises.

1: Birds of Paradise Lounge

This Mai Tai features a complex four rum blend of Appleton 12, Smith & Cross, Plantation Xaymaca, and Kō Hana Kea.

It seems impossible to believe that a party Mai Tai served in a plastic cup could be the best this year but when the Correy and Mariella Bravo make a Mai Tai their way you know it’s going to be Maita’i roa ae.

View the full write up for the Top 10 Mai Tais of 2022

Kō Hana Kea

Mele Kalikimaka to me. Finally picked up a bottle of this delicious Kō Hana Kea rum from O’ahu. Savory notes common from spirits derived from fresh cane juice, but missing the heavy grassy notes you sometimes see. Kea is medium bodied and tastes great in the glass.

Kō Ho Ho.

Ultimate Kuleana Rum Mai Tai

We worked hard at Ultimate Mai Tai Headquarters to come up with a great Mai Tai using Kuleana’s rum expressions. With four Kuleana rums to work with it was difficult to hone in on the right formula, but after exhaustive testing this one really stuck the landing. The cocktail has complex and fruity flavors that will remind you of the islands, but still remaining true to the original Mai Tai formula.

I wanted to use at least two Kuleana rums, especially their Hawaiian Rum Agricole that I find delightful. But that rum has such as unique taste it can overpower other rums, even Kuleana’s premium aged expression Hōkūlei. So we dialed the Rum Agricole back and added Kuleana’s lightly aged rum, Nanea.

To give the cocktail a tropical twist, we replaced the ¼ oz of rock candy syrup with liliko’i/passionfruit syrup. Because sometimes you want the flavor but not the foam.

Ultimate Kuleana Rum Mai Tai by Kevin Crossman
1 oz Lime Juice
¼ oz Passionfruit Syrup
½ oz Orgeat
½ oz Orange Curacao
½ oz Kuleana Hawaiian Agricole Rum
½ oz Kuleana Nanea Rum
1 oz Kuleana Hōkūlei Rum
Shake with crushed ice and garnish with pineapple and cherry

Products used: Small Hand Foods Passionfruit Syrup, Latitude 29 Orgeat, Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao.

If you have these rums, give this recipe and try and drop a comment with your impressions.

Interestingly, these same rums are used in the Kuleana Mai Tai at Kuleana Rum Shack. Wonder what the proportions are, and what’s in Kuleana’s “secret mix” in that Mai Tai. Hmmmmm.

The bottles were provided by Kuleana but this is not a sponsored post.

Tiki With Ray Episode 142: Can The Mai Tai Evolve Again?

It’s always a pleasure talk with Tiki with Ray off or on camera. This conversation was on camera for Ray’s YouTube show, and he asked me the provocative question – can the Mai Tai evolve again?

The Mai Tai evolved around a decade after it arrived in Hawai’i, so it seems like a possibility that it could evolve again? Ray put out some theories and I reacted with some opinions. Be sure to check out the video on YouTube.

The episode was filmed at Tiki Tom’s. Be sure check out Ray’s interview episode with Tiki Tom’s owner Darrin DeRita from a couple weeks ago.

Fetch Me a Mai Tai, Ping-Pong

RIP Angela Lansbury

Beloved actress Angela Lansbury died today at the age of 96. The actress was most known for appearing on numerous productions on Broadway and in later years as the star of the Murder, She Wrote television series.

The role I most associate with Lansbury was as Elvis Presley’s mother in the movie Blue Hawaii. Her character was grating at times, though Lansbury convincingly played the mother despite being less than ten years older than Elvis.

Blue Hawaii has some great music and pretty good performances by Elvis and costar Joan Blackman. And of course some gorgeous scenery of Hawai’i. Less good things can be said about the stereotypical and (currently viewed) racially insensitive portrayal of the Hawaiian and Asian characters in the film, notably the Chinese manservant Ping-Pong. Though, the stereotypical portrayal of Lansbury’s character of a Southern wife and mother probably won’t be viewed positively by many as well.

The line that is most memorable is when Lansbury’s character asks for a couple of Mai Tais. I mean it is just so ridiculously awful and insensitive today to hear her say “Fetch me a Mai Tai, Ping-Pong” that just have to shake your head.

Kuleana Rum Works Hōkūlei

The latest blended rum release for Kuleana Rum Works will appeal to those who love barrel notes in their rum. This rum combines distillate from six countries, including a unique aged version of Kuleana’s Hawaiian Rum Agricole. Issued at 46% ABV, this is reminiscent of quality Barbados rums but with a slightly lighter overall character. No added colors, flavors, or sweeteners.

As noted there is a complex and interesting set of seven rums in this bottle:

  • Base rums: Molasses rums from Panama, Nicaragua, Barbados, and Venezuela and aged 2-3, 3-8, 5-8, and 8 years respectively.

  • Body rums: Kuleana’s Hawaiian Rum Agricole made from sugar cane juice and aged 18 months in Cognac barrels, plus a 15 year molasses-based rum from Barbados.

  • Accent rum: Molasses-based rum from Trinidad, aged 18 years.

I can’t say that the Hawaiian Rum Agricole hits me over the head, and honestly I’d love to try some of that just by itself. But overall, Hōkūlei is a really great sipping rum with great spice and oak notes.

In a Mai Tai, Hōkūlei doesn’t really punch through in the assertive way that Kuleana’s Hawaiian Rum Agricole does, though there’s plenty of general rummy flavor. On the other hand, this rum shines in a Daiquiri where you can taste those same spice and oak flavors alongside the brightness of the lime and sugar.

Hōkūlei retails for around $70-80 and is just coming to market this year. You can order from Kuleana’s website as well.

The bottle was provided by Kuleana but this is not a sponsored post.

Recipe: Blue Hawaii (Modified)

Went out to dinner last night in the Bay Area suburbs. Lazy Dog Restaurant has a “Blue Hawaiian” on the menu that’s pretty close to Harry Yee’s original blue cocktail. Pineapple, Sweet & Sour, Rum, Vodka – and OJ. It came out really green but the taste was just fine.

At home I made one with a modified recipe that was even better.

Blue Hawaii (Modified)
½ oz Lemon Juice
2 oz Pineapple Juice
½ oz Simple Syrup
½ oz Blue Curacao
1½ oz White Rum Blend
Shake with crushed ice.

My white rum blend is made from almost empty bottles of Denizen 3, Wray & Nephew Overproof, Myers’s White, and Three Rolls Estate. So a bit more flavorful than your standard Puerto Rican White. And way better than Vodka.

I used Giffard Blue Curacao. For this drink, I think adding another half ounce of Blue Curacao for a float would look nicer and add a bit more sweetness to the cocktail.

Note that Harry Lee celebrated his 104th birthday this week. You can read an essay about Yee from Hawaiian journalist Rick Carrol, circa late 1990s, on this website.

“Blue Hawaiian” from Lazy Dog

Kuleana Rum Works Huihui and Nanea

Huihui and Nanea from Kuleana Rum Works are blended rums made from distillate mostly sourced outside Hawai’i. These are semi-premium ($30-40) rums and are a best fit in cocktails.

Nanea is blend of column still molasses-based rums, aged between 2-4 years in ex-Bourbon barrels, giving this a completely different flavor profile that Kuleana’s signature Hawaiian Rum Agricole. The base rum is from Guatemala and aged two years. The “body” rum is from Guadeloupe and aged three years. The “accent” rum is from El Salvador and aged for four years. This is a very pleasant rum to sip, and the 43% ABV gives this a little extra flavor to savor. The column stills give this a light body featuring spice notes.

Huihui is a similar blend of three rums, all unaged and issued at 40% ABV. The base rum molasses-based rum from Papua New Guinea, with the “accent” rum being cane-juice based rhum from Martinique. The “body” rum is Kuleana’s own Hawaiian Rum Agricole, but Kuleana does not break down the percentages.

I’d had Huihui before and rated it 4/5 stars on my Forbidden Island Kill Devil Club rum list, but honestly this didn’t resonate with me as much this time. I think the grassy notes from the Martinique rum are a bit overpowering, even with this just being an accent. Moreover, it sort of overshadows the Hawaiian Rum Agricole that I find much more pleasant. It didn’t work for me in a daiquiri, either. Nice to see some of Kuleana’s own product in the blend, though. 

Tasting these rums in a Mai Tai it should not surprise anyone that the aged Nanea is a better fit than the Huihui. Even with a lighter body, the vanilla and spice notes from Nanea do work well in a Mai Tai that I totally enjoyed. I’d expect Nanea would work very well in any cocktail calling for a gold rum generally or something like a Barbados rum specifically.

The bottles were provided by Kuleana but this is not a sponsored post.