In our tasting session, we approached each vodka straight, with water at room temperature, and with ice. Water will open up flavors and ice will shut down flavors due to the coagulation of the fats. We also tried each vodka with POG in 3:1 ratio, as it provides a general pool-side bar cocktail approach or local-kine two ingredient drink. We also did a tonic in a 3:1 ratio as well.
Distillery Location: 577 Pakala St, Honolulu, HI 96825 (Open for Tours)
Distributor: Paradise Beverages
Owner and operator Dave Flintstone of Island Distillers is a blender at heart, and such is his approach to Hapa Vodka. To make the base spirit, sugar cane grown on property is fermented and run through a custom micro continuous distillation still. This instantly vaporizes the mash and automatically separates heads and tales. With this distillation technique, minimal heads and tails are produced, thus proving higher yields of end product. Flintstone helped design the still with a Russian engineer who worked on fuel refineries and vodka in his spare time. The still was refined for the American palate, as Russians tend to like their vodka with a lot more bite. Flintstone then blends a Brazilian spirit to proof with water, lets it rest, then blends it again with his local vodka distillate.
Hapa Coconut Vodka is blended with an all natural water vapor concentrate of coconut essence from Thailand and Vietnam. Hapa Hibiscus Vodka is infusion of Hibiscus petals into vodka. Raw sugar is added to both as a sweetener.
Hawaii Beverage Guide Commentary
We feel Island Distiller’s Hapa Vodka is more robust in flavor than Ocean Vodka and less robust than Pau. It’s bouquet is slightly astringent and clean. On the palate, Hapa has a silky mouthfeel with warming alcohol. There is a faint top note of grass or sugarcane, with a slightly sweet lasting finish.
Hapa vodka’s neutral flavor provides a great base for the concentrated Hibiscus Vodka. We believe the hibiscus would work well on a menu in Hawaii as it checks off a couple great buzzwords. Unless you plan on making hibiscus tea or doing your own infusion, this concentrate would also save time when building your cocktail ingredients list.
Hapa Coconut, the brand’s top seller is basically concentrated coconut flavor that still tastes natural. Like the hibiscus, this vodka reads well on a menu, and can be more versatile than a coconut rum, as you don’t have to compete with the rum flavors.
Location: 883 Haliimaile Rd, Makawao, HI 96768 (Open for Tours)
Distributor: Young’s Market of Hawaii
Hali'imaile Distilling Company of the LeVecke’s Private Label Program makes Pau Vodka from Pineapple, specifically Maui Gold pineapples, as LeVecke recently acquired the company. To produce the distillate, the pineapples are fermented and the mash is run through proprietary glass stills personally designed by Master Distiller Mark Nigbur. Nigbur has chosen to forgo use of traditional copper stills, as he believes copper can impart flavor during the distillation process. This single distillation still is similar to that of a continuous still. As a “filter,” the column contains volcanic rock. After one pass, the spirit is at 96.5% alcohol before going through gravity filtration via activated carbon.
Hawaii Beverage Guide Approach
Pau has a slight nose of pineapple leaf. On the palate, it’s more astringent than the other two Hawaii Vodka’s we tried but still not harsh. On the rocks, the palate becomes noticeably softer as the fats coagulate and the astringency mellows. It has a top note of bright pineapple and a medium finish that is slightly vegetal. Due to its robust flavor profile, we feel Pau would work well in fruit-heavy cocktails such as our POG - Pau cocktail. It should be noted that Pau’s retail price runs $5 to $10 less per bottle than Ocean Vodka or Hapa Vodka.
Location: 4051 Omaopio Rd. Kula, HI 96790 (Open for Tours)
OCEAN Organic Vodka is certified organic. It is distilled from organic sugar cane and blended with deep ocean mineral water. The sugarcane is harvested on property, juiced, and fermented. The mash is then run through continuous column distillation in full size towers that each contain more than 100 platelets.
Hawaii Beverage Guide Commentary
We feel Ocean Vodka is the most neutral of the vokas we tried. It has a slight note of sugarcane on the nose. On the palate, it is particularly “smooth,” though its mouthfeel is slightly thin. The mouthfeel does improve with ice, however we feel this also mutes Ocean Vodka flavors. It has very little astringency and is slightly sweet, with a short, clean finish. This makes it reminiscent of a white Puerto Rican Rum, though more neutral.
We feel Ocean works well as a chilled vodka shot, in vodka soda, or in any other drink in which very subtle flavor and low astringency is desired. In the POG, the Ocean was too subtle for our liking, in that it almost disappeared altogether. We do recognize, however, that this is a desirable trait for some.