North Kohala was a significant center for Hawaii’s sugar industry through the boom years in the 1800s until its decline in the first half of the 20th century. Now, sugar cane is being put to a new use in the area – rum production.
The photos show sugar cane being grown in the fields below Hawi wind farm. This isn’t just any kind of sugar cane. These are heirloom varieties, derived from canoe plants – plants brought to Hawaii by the original Polynesian settlers. Now they’re being used in the production of rum agricole.
Rum agricole hails from the Caribbean, particularly the island of Martinique. Regular rum is made from molasses, but rum agricole uses fresh sugarcane juice. The people behind Kuleana Rum have begun producing the Caribbean-style rum here on the Big Island. They have a distillery in Kawaihae, about 17 miles down the coast, and have opened Kuleana Rum Shack, a bar and restaurant in Waikoloa.