Beyond the Bar: Honoring the History of Hawaiian Heirloom Sugarcane at Four Seasons Oahu


Everyone thought I was crazy. I mean, universally crazy. My wife and I had the opportunity to take a chance and move to Hawaii. My background’s in technology and I continued to do that work when I moved here, but it didn’t seem as meaningful here. Agriculture was something that just was fascinating to me. I think she probably was like, “I don’t think you’ve ever grown a plant you didn’t kill in the house. How are you actually going to start a farm?” I start reading through about sugar cane and then you find, well, the Polynesians brought them for a reason. They brought them because they were medicinal. They brought them because they had spiritual value. And then they’re describing each plant and each one is unique in flavor and color and texture. Then all of a sudden, they come across this one sugar cane plant called Manulele. “Manulele” means “bird in flight” or “flying bird” in Hawaiian. And they believed that it was so strong, it could be impactful at distances and just generate passionate love that was unbreakable. And I’m like, “Holy smokes, what a beautiful story!” First, I want to go, “Great! I’m going to go get these canes.” There’s sugar canes still in Hawaii. There’s two big sugar mills here. They must exist! No, they don’t exist. The sugar mills didn’t use Hawaiian cane. And so I went, like, “Wow. I’m going to have to start from scratch.” So that’s what I did. The taste of the plant and of the farm, it comes through. And you’ll never find that in a molasses-based rum. I mean, we really are from the farm to the bottle. We do it all here. We do literally everything by hand. Even our harvests are hand-harvested. The French are the ones who actually invented this agrical style. They said, “We should, instead of using industrial waste or industrial ingredients or byproducts, we should instead make rum the way we make cognac in the French style.” And they said, “Let’s use the cane plant and treat it as if it’s a fruit, like a grape to make cognac.” With this, because you’re taking it directly from the farm, pressing it, there’s only two ingredients in what we make. It’s just big and bold. You open the bottle and you just smell the cane field. And I started off in the cane field where we’re trying to be a craft producer of a very, very fine product. You know, Four Seasons and our company, we don’t shortcut anything. With the amount of time and effort and energy required to do it right, well, it may cost more. And it does definitely cost more to make rum this way. Way more. But it’s worth it because at the end, you get a product that isn’t necessarily for everybody. But for the people who appreciate it, it’s exactly what they want.

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