One of the perks of my job is that it provides me the opportunity for occasional travel. And with that travel comes the chance to sample local delights. Yesterday, my travels brought me to Honolulu, where I make an annual pilgrimage to visit a client. And the local delights to be sampled today include a Mai Tai (or two) at the Royal Hawaiian.
As with last week’s cocktails, the Mai Tai is grounded in rum, and while the Royal Hawaiian doesn’t use anything especially exotic in their concoction, I’m hopeful to also have a chance to sample one of the small number of artisan rums being produced in Hawaii.
Hawaii doesn’t yet have a significant craft distillery movement. But the residents of Hawaii do have a long and proud relationship with the sugarcane plant, which is believed by many to have been brought to the Islands by native people many hundreds of years ago. While cane plantations have diminished in the ensuing centuries, and in fact the last commercial cane plantation in Hawaii is scheduled to close this year, production on a smaller scale continues. And where you’ll find cane, you’re sure to find spirits.
One such example is Kō Hana Agricole Rum, which is a single-varietal rum made from sugar cane grown on-site at their 15-acre sugarcane field. The cane is then pressed, fermented and distilled (still on-site) in small batches. Offering a tour that lets you chew the raw sugar cane only to later sample the rum, Kō Hana is the epitome of “farm to tipple”.
In taking this approach to their product, Kō Hana also has the benefit of qualifying for a slightly preferential state license, because their product is crafted entirely from cane grown within the state. Many states are adopting similar licensing structures, intended to simultaneously facilitate local agriculture and the interest in craft distillation. In some cases, these licensing structures offer tax incentives. Alternatively, the structure may allow greater freedom to sell product directly to the public at the distillery itself, at local farmers’ markets or similar locations. Note that these state laws do not always mix neatly with the obligations imposed by the TTB or by local authorities – but certainly every potential bit of regulatory relief is helpful fledgling distillers and other small market participants.
What’s the takeaway? Consider the potential for a significant use of locally sourced ingredients when you’re crafting that next recipe. It will not only lend your product street cred among your resident locavores, but may actually give your business a regulatory boost as well.