hawaii distillery

Discover the many tastes of Hawaii on a distillery tour. (Photo: Courtesy of Kō Hana Distillers)


The Spirit Moves Us: Inside Hawaii’s Booming Microdistillery Scene

Move over Kentucky bourbon. There’s a new American region making award-winning booze: Hawaii. And we’re not talking Tiki drinks, though they too have a unique charm. The Aloha State’s microdistilleries are bringing the region notice among cocktail connoisseurs. Here’s where to tour and taste, and ōkole maluna! (That’s “bottoms up” in Hawaiian.)


Aficionados of gin know that it’s all about the botanicals. Juniper is a must, or it just isn’t gin. Everything else is up to the individual distiller. Maui’s first and only locally made gin is Fid Street, produced by Hali’imaile Distilling Co. in Upcountry Makawao. The company uses 11 botanicals to craft its London-dry-style gin, including lavender from nearby fields, as well as tropical flavors like orange rind and pineapple.

Fid Street’s moniker is a nod to Hawaii’s 19th-century history: It was an area in Honolulu near the wharves that drew in sailors in search of R & R. Or G&T, as the case may be. A “fid” was nautical slang for a drink and refers to either a sharp tool or a heavy metal bar across the top mast. Hmm, heavy-metal bar … But that concept would have to wait until the1980s. Tours and tastings are available daily; reserve here.


Kō Hana Distillers traveled back into Polynesian history to create its Agricole Rum. Based in Kunia, northwest of Honolulu on Oahu, it uses hand-harvested, heirloom varietals of sugar cane (), similar to the plants enjoyed by early inhabitants of Hawaii 800 years ago.

hawaii distillery
Learn the ins and outs of the process. (Photo: Courtesy of Kō Hana Distillers)

Insiders’ tip: Regular tours are offered daily, but if you want to really relax and imbibe, the distillery partners with Lyft for a tour/transportation package.

Rum-runners visiting Kauai can stop in at the Kilohana Plantation in Līhu’e, home of the Kōloa Rum tasting room. Don’t miss the Kauai Reserve 12-Barrel Select Hawaiian Rum, crafted in single batches and aged for at least three years in white-oak barrels. Tastings are daily, every half-hour starting at 10:30 a.m.; sign up on the sheet inside.


While at Hali’imaile Distilling Co. sipping gin, you can also sample Pau Vodka, a farm-to-table libation that’s distilled from locally grown Maui Gold pineapples instead of the usual fermented grain or potatoes. Don’t let the pineapple part fool you, though — this high-end vodka isn’t pineapple flavored at all.

hawaii distillery
Pay a visit to Island Distillers. (Photo: Courtesy of Island Distillers)

Those questing for a tasty flavored vodka can head instead to Island Distillers, on Oahu, which offers handmade batches of vodka with coconut, hibiscus and chili-pepper flavors. It also makes rum, as well as a unique Islands’ liquor called Okolehao, crafted from fermented, baked tī root.

The distillery is just a little south of Waikiki close to Hanauma Bay. Tours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily and include a tasting of five of the company’s products with Hawaiian snacks.

Ocean Vodka has gorgeous packaging — the bottles look like antique glass fishing floats — and an equally eye-catching location on the slopes of Maui’s Haleakalā.

Its maker, Hawaii Sea Spirits Organic Farm & Distillery, uses eco-friendly methods and ingredients, combining solar power, pesticide-free sugar cane and deep ocean mineral water. The resulting spirits have a remarkable clarity. Tasting tours are offered daily; make a reservation here.


A high-proof liquor most often distilled from sweet potatoes or barley, shochu is super popular in Japan, but most Americans have never heard of, nor tasted, the stuff. Oahu’s North Shore just happens to have Ken Hirata, one of the only shochu makers in the U.S.

At Hawaiian Shochu Co., he crafts small batches using traditional methods. Like, 100-year-old pots traditional. Free tours and tastings are available for up to eight adults at a time and are by appointment only.


hawaii distillery
Prefer cider to hard liquor? Not a problem. (Photo: Courtesy of Paradise Ciders)

Don’t like hard liquor? In Honolulu’s Kalihi neighborhood, Paradise Ciders’ tasting room serves flights of hard ciders made from tropical fruits such as liliko’i (passion fruit), dragonfruit and guava. Pop-up food events and pizza by the slice add to the fun.